Jeb Bush Still Thinks He's the Better Bet

PHOTO:Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during a campaign event at the Coca Cola bottling plant in Atlantic, Iowa, Nov. 11, 2015. PlayNati Harnik/AP Photo
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The Jeb Bush that greeted veterans at an old Coca-Cola manufacturing plant on Wednesday was technically the same man voters saw last week. His stump speech was the same, he spoke with just as many voters as he usually does and went over his normal allotment of questions.

But there was something different about this Bush. For the first time in days, his appearance wasn't mired in talks of campaign cuts or failed jabs at Marco Rubio. Today, it was just about Jeb.

"I hope you want a president that loves his country and means it," Bush said

As he spoke to voters in three different cities in the Hawkeye State, he rode high on his debate performance. Though he may not have won, it propelled his struggling campaign to more comfortable heights, amid discussions of a wavering donor base concerned about their candidate's prospects.

"It was his best debate yet," one bundler told ABC News.

Another Bush backer enthusiastically reached out as the debate was in session. "I think he was by far the best he has been in any debate!"

Along with an endorsement from former U.S. Senator Bob Dole, Bush's Campaign Manager, Danny Diaz, announced on Twitter that the campaign had secured an elusive donor.

Curtis Fett, a financial services advisor who lives in West Des Moines, attended the evening town hall in Waukee. He couldn't help his enthusiasm when he stood up to ask a question.

"You did a great job last night," Fett began. He added, "We need you in the White House."

When asked if the tides were perhaps turning, Bush told reporters that he felt optimistic.

"Look I’m running hard and I’m running to win," he said. "And I think I will win, I honestly believe it."

This was the debate his staff had been hoping for, one that focused on substance and gave candidates the chance for elongated answers -- a policy wonk's dream. Bush's team hired media coach John Kraushar, who helps train Fox News anchors and helped his father, the 41st president, with his syntax.

"He just bought some logic to being able to say what you think, just don't get tripped up with the questions," Bush said. He conceded that it's taken him time to learn the art of political circumlocution.

"I’m learning the new art of acknowledging the question and being respectful of the questioner, of course, and then answering what's on my mind," he said.

Betsy Moniz, of Oakland, Iowa, was another voter who came to hear him speak, posing a question to the former Florida governor on immigration. While she found Bush to be knowledgeable, she, like so many others, favors an outsider.

"I am tired of career politicians. Look at the mess that both sides have created and I think it's time for somebody fresh with new innovative ideas," Moniz said.

But while candidates, like Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who have never held political office, currently lead the polls, Bush and his supporters are fretting over another politician in the race; his former protege, Marco Rubio.

Bush's Super PAC, according to sources familiar with their plans, is moving into an attack phase, or the "comparing and contrasting phase" as it is sometimes publicly called. Their focus will be targeting Rubio, among other candidates. The New York Times reported that the Super PAC was developing an advertisement focused on Rubio's hard line abortion stance, reportedly hoping to weaken his chances among women. The source denies that plan.

Bush did not appear to favor that plan, telling reporters that he is the most pro-life candidate of all the Republicans.

"I don't think anybody should attack someone who is pro-life," he said, when asked if he would disavow his Super PAC should they go forward with that plan.

But for now, Bush is letting his surrogates handle the attacks. During Tuesday's debate, he declined to engage with Rubio and kept his focus mostly on Hillary Clinton, whom he sees as the presumptive Democratic nominee. In Iowa, he was asked if Rubio would be able to best Clinton in a head-to-head match-up.

"I'm the better bet," he said, an assured smirk on his face.

Tom Wheland, of San Francisco, was visiting Atlantic with his wife as political tourists. The registered Democrat agrees.

"Well, of course he would be the most potent Clinton opponent," Wheland said. He added, "But I'm not sure he can get through debates."

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