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Jeb Bush to poll watchers: "Take a chill pill"

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks to Iowa residents at a Pizza Ranch restaurant on March 7, 2015 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Scott Olson, Getty Images

Jumpy poll numbers that don't show Jeb Bush with a commanding lead among the 2016 Republican field don't bother the former Florida governor.

"The polls are totally irrelevant," Bush said in an interviewwith Fox News' Megyn Kelly that aired Monday night. "I'm not a candidate yet."

"Everybody needs to take a chill pill on the polls until it gets closer," he added.

Bush has not yet declared his presidential candidacy, even as he has seen several fellow Republicans, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, make their campaigns official.

He said that even without a formal announcement, however, his exploratory efforts are better than those of the leading Democratic candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"I go do town hall meetings, don't screen the questions, don't have a protected bubble like Mrs. Clinton does, don't have town hall meetings or roundtable discussion where I pick who gets to come and I screen the questions, and the press has to behave a certain way," Bush said.

Bush also told Kelly he is sticking to his positions on immigration and Common Core, two issues on which he isn't always in lockstep with the Republican base.

He argued for allowing immigrants in the U.S. illegally to have a pathway to legal status, though not necessarily citizenship. He also said he would support allowing young men and women brought to the U.S. illegally as children to qualify for in-state tuition at colleges and universities, a position that got former Texas Gov. Rick Perry in trouble during the 2012 GOP primary.

"There's a point past which we're over the line," Bush said. "What are we supposed to do, marginalize these people forever?" Bush asked.

Bush also suggested his willingness to defend less popular positions sets him apart from other candidates.

"Do you want people to just bend with the wind? To mirror people's sentiment whoever is front you?" he said. "Is that the way we want to elect presidents? Running for president is tough. Serving as president, which should be the objective, is a little harder."

On Common Core school standards, which many Republican voters fiercely oppose, Bush said he can "respect people having a view" but stood firm in his support for the standards.

"The simple fact is, we need higher standards. They need to be state driven. The federal government should play no part in this either, either in the creation of standards, content or curriculum," he said.

Some things Bush said in the interview will win him favor with GOP voters. On issues like religious freedom, he said the country is moving in the wrong direction.

"That's the kind of the world we're moving towards, that the First Amendment rights only exist for people that don't have faith. I mean if we reflect on this the right way I think we will realize that we're a big enough country to allow dissenting views on any subject. That's where we need to get," he said.

Earlier, Fox News released a clip of Bush saying in the interview that he would have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He also acknowledged that his brother, former President George W. Bush, is an advisor on foreign policy, but not his only advisor.

"I love my brother, and I respect his service," Bush said."

And as for issues of his family having a presidential dynasty?

"I haven't been in Washington...ever. I'm not part of Washington," he said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.