OCALA - Debra White wasn’t certain who she’d vote for Monday morning in the 2016 presidential election.
But by the end of his second town hall meeting Monday, Republican candidate Jeb Bush had won the single mother over.
“Everything he said, he hit right dead on,” said White, who attended the rally with her 16-year-old son, Christian.
About 350 people applauded as Bush walked into Ocala’s Circle Square Cultural Center auditorium shortly after 3 p.m. Monday afternoon. Ocala was the second stop during a brief state tour for the presidential hopeful Monday. He spoke at an identical event earlier that morning at Chico’s Restaurant in Hialeah, Florida.
After a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, Bush dove into his strategy to defeat ISIS.
“We need to have a policy not of containment but of destruction, of annihilating ISIS,” Bush said.
He plans to arm Kurdish forces and embed troops inside the Iraqi military “to give them a spine, to train them.” He also said the U.S. should engage Sunni tribal leaders and establish a no-fly zone over Syria.
Bush said the U.S. is at war with “Islamic terrorism” and attacked Obama’s position of containing the Islamic State.
He said the approach allowed for recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
“They have declared war on us, and we need to do the same with them,” Bush said.
He also shunned Russian president Vladimir Putin and condemned his invasion of Crimea in 2014, saying “anybody that embraces Vladimir Putin as a great guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
“This guy is not someone to be respected and admired, he needs to be confronted,” Bush added.
From there he hit other topics, including the need to decentralize the federal government and give more power to states, ending lifetime employment in Washington, D.C.
Bush also called for building the “best possible climate for people to pursue their dreams.” He also spoke about fixing issues hampering the Veterans Affairs ability to provide care to military veterans.
Answering an audience member’s question on how to address the country’s national debt, Bush said his highest priority is repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a system where people have more power to make decisions for themselves.
At the end of the meeting Bush took pictures and selfies with attendees and signed flyers and campaign signs.
White’s son, Christian, was part of the crowd hoping for a picture.
Christian is too young to vote, but he liked Bush's response to a statement from an attendee who said young people were increasingly asking “What can my country do for me?” instead of asking “What can I do for my country?”
Bush said the problems and faulty economic system facing the U.S. today aren’t the fault of young people, a defense that Christian said he appreciated.
“I liked when he actually defended that,” Christian said.
“Because it’s gonna be hard.”