PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- It has been a difficult ten days for Jeb Bush.
After telling Fox News’ Megyn Kelly last week that he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq in 2003, even “knowing what we know now,” Bush spent several days providing shifting variants of that assessment, before ultimately affirming that he had misheard Kelly’s question and would not have authorized the invasion if he had known that Saddam Hussein was not harboring weapons of mass destruction.
So when the former Florida governor stopped in this picturesque New Hampshire port town for a roundtable discussion on Monday afternoon, it was no surprise that a couple of the attendees declined his offer to answer questions, and instead offered him some frank advice.
“I think the Bush family is an asset that you have,” one man told the all-but certain Republican presidential candidate. “You have a great story to tell, and your family does, and I hope you put that as part of your way of doing business in the campaign.”
The suggestion earned a hearty round of applause from some of the local business leaders packed into the small conference room. Then, a woman who was sitting just to Bush’s right took the opportunity to follow up.
“To tie into that point, if and when you do decide to announce, I hope that you will not allow the media -- present company included -- to draw you back,” she said. “Because you’ve spoken several times in this last hour about -- especially our overseas issues -- that we need to be concerned with."
The woman cautioned Bush against being "pressured into policies that you did not make and that were from a different era and a different time."
"I’m hoping that you will resist that," she added.
Bush said that the woman’s counsel was “very good advice” and noted again that he had “misheard” Kelly’s question.
“I actually gave a pretty good answer to the question, but it was not the question she asked,” he said.
He went on to say that the more important question was whether President Barack Obama should have kept more troops in Iraq in 2011.
“Because as of yesterday, Ramadi has been taken over by ISIS,” Bush said, using a name for the Islamic State militant group, which recently captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi. “ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president. Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was president. There were mistakes made in Iraq, for sure, but the surge created a fragile but stable Iraq that the president could have built on.”
Bush was in New Hampshire -- a state that is critical to his 2016 chances -- for a two-day campaign-style swing.