Jeb Bush makes debut in New Hampshire

Author: Associated Press
Published: Updated:

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Scott Walker’s children plan to skip college next fall to talk about their dad with New Hampshire voters, but the Wisconsin governor has stopped short of formally saying he is running for president.

So, too, has former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He carefully avoided declaring himself a candidate for the Republican nomination even though his two-day visit to this early nominating state had all of the marks of a White House bid.

Welcome to cagey and often absurd early stages of this campaign for president.

Walker, Bush, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas all are afoot in New Hampshire this weekend, meeting with party activists and elders. And each, like the others who have been or soon will be coming, are taking great pains to avoid stating the obvious and triggering the headaches that come with being a full-blown candidate.

But there are plenty of slips along the way, such as when Walker disclosed Saturday that his 19- and 20-year-old sons plan to ditch college this fall.

“They twisted our arms to figure out a way to maybe take part of a semester off next year, next fall, to come to New Hampshire, to come around the country and talk to young people like themselves,” Walker said.

Walker also promised he would return to New Hampshire often, even though he was circumspect on why the governor of a Midwestern state would take such a shine to New Hampshire if he weren’t running for the GOP nomination.

“We’ll be back many more times to New Hampshire,” he promised.

A similar wink and nod came from Bush, who drew a large number of out-of-state reporters to his meetings with business leaders in southern New Hampshire on Friday.

“I have brought all my friends from outside of New Hampshire to come do their part to enhance the economic climate of Nashua,” Bush said.

And when asked how he, as president, would confront Islamic State militants, Bush made a point of saying he was not yet a candidate for the office.

“I get really nervous about not triggering a campaign with all of these people around,” Bush said.

Each of the likely candidates is coached to couch their ambitions in hypotheticals. Walker’s “not being a declared candidate” caveat and Bush’s “I’m considering the possibility of running” statements are merely formalities at this point. Several candidates are likely to start taking the next steps in April, and most have been laying the groundwork for a campaign for months if not years.

For instance, Walker was tardy for a state party training session Saturday morning because he was held up in private meetings with those he hopes will back his campaign in waiting. On his dance card on this trip: former Gov. John H. Sununu, former Sen. Scott Brown, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, state Senate President Chuck Morse and county party chairs.

“There are so many people hoping to get a few minutes with the governor,” New Hampshire Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn told waiting activists on Saturday.

When he eventually arrived to a warm reception, Horn introduced him: “We’re so grateful he’s made time for us.”

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