In Iowa, Jeb Bush takes on conservative hurdles

Last Updated Mar 7, 2015 8:19 PM EST

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Florida, wasn't going to let his absence from Iowa in recent years get in the way of his return visit.

Reintroducing himself to Iowa Republicans this weekend amid criticism of his positions on Common Core education standards and immigration, he addressed the elephants in the room at every opportunity.

He pointed out to crowds in Urbandale and Des Moines that he truly is no stranger to the state, recounting his campaigning with his father and his brother, going all the way back to his father's failed 1980 bid for the GOP nomination.

"Gosh I must've been like 26 years old when my dad ran in - the campaign was basically 1979 because the caucus was in January - and I probably went to at least 50 of the counties, if not more; I spent a quarter to half my time here," he said at the Iowa Ag Summit on Saturday.

"I remember eating really well, eating really, really well, which I enjoyed, and meeting a lot of nice people," he said.

"I learned a lot by campaigning for my dad and my brother," he said. "I learned a lot about Iowa as well."

Despite all of that time campaigning 35 years ago, Craig Robinson, editor of The Iowa Republican blog, told CBS News he thinks Bush's biggest hurdles are that "Bush fatigue is real" but despite that, he's relatively unknown in the Hawkeye State.

"Here he's, you know, got the Bush brand, big name ID, but I don't think people really know him as a person, and so this is the first opportunity that Iowans are getting to see him in his own words in their state," Robinson said, adding that Bush should just "come out and mix it up with Iowans so they have a better understanding of what he's like, who he's like, what he believes in versus everything that they might've heard about Jeb Bush."

Two of the things Iowans and conservatives, especially, have heard about Bush are his views on Common Core and immigration reform, which have drawn the ire of hardcore conservatives.

But, as Robinson suggested, Bush arrived in Iowa and stood his ground on both issues.

"Raising expectations and having accurate assessments of where kids are is essential for success, and I'm not going to back down on that," he said at a fundraiser Friday night for Rep. David Young in Urbandale, Iowa.

"I know what I believe," he said. "I believe in higher standards that develop critical thinking skills."

On immigration, Bush told the Ag Summit Saturday, "immigrants that are here need to have a path to legalized status."

"What we need to do is to make sure people pay fines, that they learn English, that they work, that they don't receive government assistance," he continued. "That they earn legalized status over the long haul. That they come out from the shadows and they can be productive with a provisional work permit."

Robinson acknowledged that Iowa conservatives "get a little squeamish when we start talking about a pathway to citizenship." But he believes Bush took the right approach during his visit, coming out "with what his plans are, what he believes, and what he would do as president. ... He needs to just come in and answer the question."

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    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.