Former Florida governor Jeb Bush dedicated his return to New Hampshire after a 15-year-long absence to defining himself outside of his family’s shadow and distancing himself from any similarities to another likely presidential candidate with legacy ties: Hillary Clinton.
Speaking after a business roundtable with the Nashua Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Bush said that his use of a private email server was “totally different” than that of the former Secretary of State, adding that he had been "totally transparent" about his communication habits.
While Clinton said this week that she used a private account out of "convenience" and later went through a "thorough process" to deliver her work-related messages to the State Department, Bush said he regularly complied with Freedom of Information Act requests during his tenure as governor and later posted a trove of thousands of emails online.
“I had a Blackberry. It was part of my official portrait for crying out loud,” he said Friday. “There was nothing to hide.”
“We complied with the law and … long before Mrs. Clinton’s issues came up, we made them public for you to see, so it's totally different,” he said.
Though Bush, who left the governor's mansion in 2007, maintained that his office has been dedicated to being "totally transparent" for years, a trove of his emails from his term were only handed over last summer, according to American Bridge, a liberal super PAC.
American Bridge released a report Saturday saying the Florida Department of State confirmed that an undisclosed amount of emails concerning "policy discussion" from 2002 to 2003 were not sent to the Florida State Archives until June of last year. That would give him, like Clinton, years where he had access to his personal email server but the government did not.
Though Bush declined to comment on what the scandal may mean for Clinton, he said he wasn't surprised that her team would suggest that his actions were similar to hers.
“That’s standard operating procedure for them,” he said of the allegations.
Later Friday, after Bush left his first public event in Hudson and stopped at a closed-door fundraiser, the former governor attended a house party hosted by former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen, where he was happier to talk about his connections to some other former White House residents.
After working his way through the jammed dining and living rooms of the Cullens, Bush talked about how his family members have defined him for many years, saying how he’s long-been known as “George’s boy, or Barbara’s boy, or George’s brother.”
That wasn’t a problem for some in the hundred-strong crowd, including Brad Ludington, an endodontist who said that he had been waiting more than a decade to shake Bush's hand.
"The last two people I shook the hands of became president," Ludington said of Bush's father and brother.
Ludington said he was excited to hear the former governor speak, and though he liked the other Bush politicians, they were "totally different people."
Bush is one of a handful of likely 2016 presidential candidates to sweep the Granite State this week. Former Texas governor Rick Perry met voters at a series of smaller events in VFW halls upstate Friday, while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will headline a training session for volunteers and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has several events scheduled for Sunday.
While Perry found support in New Hampshire during the 2012 primaries, some state activists appear to be making an effort to change the tenor of the upcoming primary politicking. On Friday night, Cullen introduced Bush by taking a swipe at the earlier field, saying they “didn't have enough serious, credible candidates" in 2012.
"Governor Bush would be a one-person antidote to that problem," Cullen said.
Bush repeatedly shied away from the conclusion that he is formally running for president. When asked about how he would address the spread of ISIS, Bush said that he would only answer the question as a third-person hypothetical because he is only “considering the possibility of running.”
But that’s enough for supporters. Before the potential candidate even started addressing the group at the house party, Ludington felt that he had done his part to get another Bush in the White House.
"I gave him my lucky handshake," he said.