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Jeb Bush to blow off Iowa straw poll — and says he ‘misinterpreted’ question on Iraq

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Jeb Bush confirmed this afternoon that he will not be participating in the Iowa Straw poll taking place this August.

The news became the biggest story of the political scene in the U.S. today, obscuring to a degree the controversy emanating from Bush’s unusual response to a question asked by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly regarding the invasion of Iraq that was broadcast on Monday night. In that interview, Bush told Kelly that even knowing in retrospect that Iraq did not possess so-called weapons of mass destruction in 2003, he’d still to do it again if he were in charge, “and so would have Hillary Clinton.”

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann told the Des Moines Register: “We hope Governor Bush rethinks his decision and realizes that grass-roots will only grow in Iowa if he waters them. The RedState Gathering is a four-day event, and other candidates have already indicated that they will be attending both. We don’t buy this excuse and neither will Iowans.”

Bush is struggling in the polls in Iowa. A Quinnipiac survey released last week showed that the former Florida governor was in seventh place, with only 5 percent support.

Bush will be in Iowa this weekend, including a town hall meeting in Dubuque, and the Republican Party of Iowa’s Lincoln Dinner.

The former Florida governor engaged in a 15-minute interview on Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio program Tuesday afternoon, and was not asked about his decision to blow off the straw poll.

However, Hannity did get around to asking him about his response to Kelly’s question on Iraq, a response that saw him get hammered by Democrats and some conservatives alike over the past 24 hours.

On “The Kelly File,” Megyn Kelly asked Bush “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”

“I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody,” Bush said, “and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

But on Hannity, Bush said, “I interpreted the question wrong, I guess.”

“I was talking about, given what people knew then, would you have done it, rather than knowing what we know now,” he explained to Hannity.

Bush said that knowing what he knows now, “Clearly there were mistakes as it related to both the intelligence in the lead up to the war, and the lack of focus on security.”

But then he segued into bashing Barack Obama, saying that security had improved in Iraq in 2007 when the surge of troops stabilized the area, security that was “totally obliterated by the president’s pulling out too early,” with ISIS now creating a “barbaric threat” in the region and beyond.

Hannity then asked with 20/20 hindsight he now would make a different decision, and the former governor agreed.

“I don’t know what that decision would have been — that’s a hypothetical — but the simple fact is, mistakes were made….we need to learn from the past to make sure that we’re strong and secure going forward.”

That response probably will clean up what had been an onslaught of negative press from both the right and the left for Bush for his initial reaction to Kelly’s question, which was first aired on Sunday afternoon by Fox before the entire interview was broadcast on Monday night.

Earlier today Bush supporter and CNN political contributor Ana Navarro said that Bush had misheard Kelly’s question.

A spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, Holly Shulman, said that “Jeb Bush didn’t mishear the question – he’s just tone deaf.”

Bush also confirmed to Hannity that he will be announcing within the next month if in fact he will actually be a candidate for president. By not announcing so far, he’s been able to raise unlimited campaign funds through his super PAC, the Right to Rise.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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