A day after Iowa, Jeb Bush doubles down on experience: PolitiFact reports from New Hampshire

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush meets with voters after a town hall in Rindge, N.H. (Louis Jacobson)

By Louis Jacobson, PolitiFact senior correspondent

RINDGE, N.H. — The day after Iowa voters gave first, second and third place to relatively inexperienced Republican politicians, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush doubled down on the experience card during a morning event in New Hampshire.

Bush chose to be introduced by a veteran congressional politician — former presidential rival Lindsey Graham — and by his host, Franklin Pierce University president Andy Card, who was the former chief of staff to President George W. Bush, Jeb Bush’s brother.

Bush, who finished far back in the pack in the Iowa caucuses, touted his gubernatorial record of tax cuts, budget surpluses, and high bond ratings and took shots at several competitors with less elective experience.

He said he cut taxes by $19 billion as Florida governor, a claim we have previously found Half True. He said Florida was one of a small handful of states that had an AAA bond rating during his tenure, which is a more accurate way of phrasing a statement we had rated False previously.

And Bush repeated his jokey line that he was known as “Veto Corleone” for cutting spending as governor, a statement we have rated True.

Early in the 25-minute prepared portion of his hour-plus town hall event, Bush made clear his feeling that the Republican Party doesn’t need another nominee with as little experience as Barack Obama in 2008.

Referring to caucus winner Ted Cruz, second-place finisher Donald Trump and third-place finisher Marco Rubio, Bush said, “Last night in Iowa, the three candidates who won … it’s kind of similar (to Obama), isn’t it?”

Bush called Trump “gifted beyond belief — when he promotes himself, and when he insults others, he pushes you down, whether you’re a Hispanic or a woman or a veteran or a POW or a disabled person. He’s extraordinary, making fun of others to make himself look strong.”

As for Cruz, Bush acknowledged his Iowa victory as an “extraordinary win,” but Bush added that, just like Obama, Cruz and Rubio are “gifted in how they speak, but what about their life experience? Is there something in their past that suggests they have the capability of making a tough decision?”

On foreign policy, Bush took aim at Cruz’s suggestion that the United States “carpet bomb” ISIS and “make the desert glow.” (We have rated Cruz’s convoluted explanation of carpet bombing False.) And Bush portrayed Trump’s foreign policy toward the Middle East as incoherent, mocking his plan to “bomb the ‘S-H-blank-blank’ out of ISIS.” Bush also accused Trump of changing his views on the region after he was “flattered by Putin,” referring to a favorable comment about Trump made by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The exchanges with attendees were often wonky. Bush expressed support for a balanced budget amendment, saying it would probably require a constitutional convention to get it passed, and he took issue with the Federal Communications Commission for its policies on Internet regulation.

To a student who expressed concerns about privacy, Bush offered a defense of government surveillance to prevent terrorism.

The emotional center of the event came with a question about drug policy by a recovering addict and former inmate who now counsels in prisons. Bush, who has grappled with his daughter Noelle’s drug addiction and made it a key issue of his campaign, called the man over for a hug.

We have previously rated Bush Half True for his statement that “as governor of Florida, I used a combination of strategies to help reduce heroin use among youth in Florida by approximately 50 percent.”