In Iowa, Jeb Bush looks to move past Iraq

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Republican Jeb Bush tried Saturday to regain his stride after an awkward week, noting his misstep about the Iraq war with humility and a laugh while reaffirming his affection for brother George W. Bush, the president who ordered the invasion.

Returning to early voting Iowa, Bush offered an explanation to voters for his confused statements on Iraq over the last week. He joked to an audience in Dubuque that his response to a reporter’s question about Iraq was “a great answer, by the way. But it wasn’t to the question that was asked.”

In a Fox News interview, Bush was asked whether he would have ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq in light of intelligence failures. He later said he was unsure what he’d do and on Wednesday dismissed such questions as irrelevant hypotheticals. The next day, on Thursday, he acknowledged he would have opposed the war had he known no weapons of mass destruction would turn up.

At the same time, Bush tried to strike a balance between loyalty to the former president and defining himself as his own man.

“War is incredibly tough,” Bush told about 100 GOP activists and students at Loras College in Dubuque. “I know my brother, and you can see it in the bond, when I’m with him, with the veterans. … The bond he has with these men and women is extraordinary.”

Meanwhile, voters seemed more interested in Bush’s stand on education — he supports Common Core education standards in spite of conservative opposition — and in his views of federal drug enforcement and President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders.

Bush was among 11 presidential hopefuls expected to speak Saturday night at the state GOP’s annual Lincoln Day dinner fundraiser. He held meetings with local GOP officials and other influential Republicans earlier in the day.