In New Hampshire, Jeb Bush Pledges to Step Up Attacks on ISIS

Jeb Bush at Citadel: It's Time to Beef Up U.S. Military 1:40

CONCORD, N.H. – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush officially filed for the New Hampshire primary on Thursday, reflecting on the significance of the special moment in his campaign of getting on the ballot in the nation’s first primary state. He then asserted the need for a direct fight against ISIS.

“It didn’t hit me until I got there,” Bush said on his way out the state house in Concord. “A lot of history.”

After Bush submitted his paperwork and his $1,000 check to get on the ballot with Secretary of State Bill Gardner, he sat down in a chair to speak with the press about the strategy he feels must be waged in the global battle against ISIS, asserting that the U.S. must do more to fight the terror group.

“I would ask the military commanders to give me options for a strategy to destroy ISIS,” he said. “I wouldn't pre-judge it, I wouldn't put conditions on it, I wouldn't say, ‘well we can't have no civilian casualties,’ which is the current policy.”

“It's impossible to wage war with your hands tied behind your back,” he continued.

Bush was the first major presidential candidate to file for the primary since terror attacks struck Paris and reignited a tense focus and debate over the current fight against ISIS and the international reception of Syrian refugees.

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Bush insisted that the U.S. program to admit refugees from Syria should be paused until it is deemed safer and backed up his comments that refugee assistance should focus on Christians, noting that religion is already part of the current admission process.

“Everybody should go through the same screening process, but I can tell you that a persecuted Christian, a Christian family that has been uprooted in their community, whether it's in Iraq or Syria, whose family members have been beheaded because of their faith, they're not Islamic terrorists,” he told reporters.

His national security remarks come just one day after outlining his proposals at the Citadel in Charleston, S.C. for additional force and ground troops in the Middle East.

This was Gardner’s first time meeting Bush, but the secretary of state had already met multiple other members of the Bush family, including George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, Dorothy Bush Koch, and George W. Bush when the previous Bushes showed up for the New Hampshire primary filing tradition.

After Jeb Bush maneuvered through the halls of the state house filled with supporters wearing red and white “Jeb!” shirts, he met Gardner at the desk of Rep. Stephen Bullock, the New Hampshire state representative that authored the state's first presidential primary law in 1913. Gardner pointed out photos on the wall of the office from when Bush’s father and brother filed for the New Hampshire primary.

Bush insisted that he is a supporter of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status, a stance all of the candidates have taken so far as they take part in the filing ritual.

New Hampshire is a very important state for Bush. He has the largest staff in the state of any Republican campaign, but he’s polling in 5th place in the latest Real Clear Politics average, behind Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki also filed for the New Hampshire primary Thursday, taking a hard charge against how the Obama administration is fighting ISIS, calling the terrorist group “barbarians who must be destroyed” and indicating that he’s not confident enough in the U.S. refugee screening process to allow those fleeing from Syria into the country.

Pataki, who is polling at the bottom of the polls nationally and in New Hampshire, was asked whether he has considered dropping out of the presidential race. He said he has “thought about it” but that he’s “encouraged all the time” by people in New Hampshire coming up to him and telling him to stay in.

On Friday, Ben Carson will be the last major presidential candidate to file for the New Hampshire primary. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee filed by mail.