Jeb Bush Faces Kitchen Sink at Iowa Pizza Ranch

PHOTO: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks to Iowa residents at a Pizza Ranch restaurant on March 7, 2015 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. PlayScott Olson/Getty Images
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It wasn’t your average night at a pizza joint.

At Pizza Ranch in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Saturday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was peppered with questions on everything from GOP strategy to Alzheimer’s funding and flooding.

Bush, who said he envisioned a “hopeful and optimistic” campaign - if he decides to mount one - told potential supporters that Republicans must “get outside of our comfort zone.”

“I want to win. I want our party to win,” he said. “There are a lot of emerging voting groups in our country and we need to get at 'em.”

“Young people have had eight years of President Obama, and he turned them on, to begin with,” he added. “The thrill is gone.”

Bush also criticized the president’s stance on net neutrality. Last month, the FCC voted to reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers and impose regulations similar to those imposed on utilities.

“The president steamrolled the FCC,” he said. “The idea of regulating access to the internet with a 1934 law is one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard.”

This weekend marks Bush’s first foray into Iowa politics since he last visited the Hawkeye State in October 2012. And in Iowa, retail politics are a potential candidates’ bread-and-butter – or, corn-and-pork.

“We are first in the nation, and we love it,” Joni Scotter, a Marion resident who is considered one of Iowa’s most highly-sought out volunteers, told ABC News. “If a candidate doesn’t get their noses right in front of our faces, oops, they’ve lost a vote. And I’m not kidding you, it’s a serious business.”

Scotter added that some of the volunteers are "very snobby."

“We’re used to having them come,” he said. “I’m not kidding you.”

Bush, who acknowledged that he needs to distance himself from his identity as “George’s boy or Barbara’s boy or W’s brother,” sought to re-brand himself.

“I’ve been on my own journey,” he said, touting his record as governor and his time in commercial real estate.

Though his surname has given some political pundits pause, many of the locals gathered at the Pizza Ranch to meet Bush were unconcerned – for them, his family’s political legacy is a point in his favor.

“I like the Bushes. The old man - I voted for him. I voted for George for the two terms he was in there,” said Ed Osbourn, a material handler in Cedar Rapids. “I’d probably vote for Jeb.”

“I think that he’s a strong candidate and I think he will be able to overcome any of the baggage with the name,” said Shelia Anderson, who owns a math learning center in Cedar Rapids.

The Pizza Ranch was so crowded that the proprietor was forced to ask unregistered guests to leave or risk shutting the event down.

But for those who were crowded out, never fear, Bush – who noted he has yet to make his 2016 decision – promised, “If I get beyond where we are today, I’ll be back here a lot.”