BERLIN — Days before his presidential launch, Jeb Bush told reporters Wednesday that his decision to replace his campaign-manager-in-waiting was a strategic move rather than a response to his tepid position in the polls.
"I don't read the polls," he told reporters outside the Pestana Hotel in Berlin, where he is on the first leg of a trip through Germany, Poland and Estonia. "It's fun to see them when you're winning, not so fun when you're not. Doesn't really matter, though. It's June for crying out loud, so we got a long way to go."
Bush said he had chosen Florida Republican Danny Diaz as campaign manager over David Kochel, who was tapped for the role initially, to allow Kochel to take a different role masterminding the campaign's efforts in early states.
"You have a real focus on four states in February, then you have an avalanche of states after that and you think about how to organize all that, how to develop the messaging part of this, the scheduling part of it, it's a pretty overwhelming challenge, and so I decided to kind of split up the duties," Bush said. "David has got great success in these early states, particularly Iowa. He's also got a great strategic mind, and Danny's a grinder."
He added that he was "confident that the team in place will do their job, and I got to do my job, as well."
Responding to a reporter's question about his early expectations, Bush pushed back against the idea that he should be in a more dominant position by now given his fundraising strength and high-profile name brand.
"I know I'm going to have to earn this," he told reporters. "It's a lot of work, and I'm excited about the prospects of this. It's a long haul. You start whenever you start, and you end a long, long way from today. I just urge everybody to be a little more patient about this."
Turning to his European tour, Bush repeated his call for a harder line against Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he called a "ruthless pragmatist" Tuesday at a conference hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party.
"He's a bully, and you enable bad behavior when you're nuanced with a guy like that," Bush told reporters, urging America and its allies to make clear that Putin would face specific consequences if he continued his aggression in Ukraine or expanded it to other neighboring states.
As part of that effort, Bush said he supported a "more robust" U.S. troop presence in Poland and Baltic countries that he would decide based on military leaders' recommendations.
Bush said he had not seen reports that President Barack Obama is considering sending hundreds of U.S. troops to Anbar province in Iraq to help advise and train local forces working to retake Ramadi, but he said he hoped they would play a more active role in combat than the administration has allowed so far.
"I think our advisers, if that's what they are, ought to be embedded in the [Iraqi] military," he said. "It helps us with our intelligence gathering. It certainly helps with morale and their ability to train the troops."