Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are two possible presidential candidates who were in New Hampshire this weekend for the same reason: to introduce themselves to voters. Though there were some similarities in the schedules of the two would-be front-runners, the men received starkly different reactions.
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The former Florida governor faced the challenge of not only using his family name to his advantage but adapting his issues on hot-button topics like the Common Core and immigration to appeal to the Granite State’s conservative voters. The Wisconsin governor simply had to tell his personal story to motivate his audience.
The enthusiasm that Walker earned at his address to the 2016 Kickoff Grassroots Training Session in Concord hosted by the New Hampshire GOP Saturday was missing at the house party held for Bush Friday night. At the house party, the crowd of roughly 100 invited guests and upward of 60 media attendees packed the home of Fergus Cullen, the state’s former GOP chairman, forcing everyone to stand throughout because there was simply no room to sit down.
On Saturday, the high school auditorium filled with volunteer activists for Walker’s speech all had a seat but chose to get on their feet multiple times throughout his nearly 45-minute speech.
Another show of support at Walker’s event that was lacking at Bush’s was a smattering of “hallelujah” affirmations throughout his talk.
“I think he’s a man of great courage,” Denis Cronin told ABC News after Walker’s speech. “I thought he was great. Very articulate.”
Walker generated more passion – on both sides – because of his fight against unions in Wisconsin. There were several dozen union workers protesting outside the high school where Walker held his event Saturday, though they dispersed when it started lightly snowing an hour before the governor arrived.
There were no such protests at either public Bush function, only interest in seeing the next member of the political family try to win over Granite State voters.
“He’s somebody you have to see and listen to him, but I don't agree with a lot of his immigration stuff,” said Ken Hawkins, a former state representative who spoke to ABC News before Walker’s speech at the New Hampshire GOP event.
“I think that people are tired of Bushes just like they're tired of Clinton's just like they were tired of Kennedys,” Hawkins said.
The son and brother of former presidents is going to have a tougher time portraying himself as an “everyman” than the son of a preacher who flipped burgers growing up and whose sons went to public school. Walker talked about his love of Kohl’s cash, boasting that he bought the sweater he was wearing for $1 Friday, while Bush talked about a conversation he had with the founder of Uber and how new self-serve soda machines at his movie theater in South Coral Gables, Florida, will lead to fewer low-income jobs.
When it comes to policy, Bush, whose events were in Dover and Hudson, has the hurdle of reaffirming himself as a conservative in spite of his support for immigration overhaul and Common Core education standards. In tackling those particular issues, he won the support of moderate Republicans or self-proclaimed independents -- like Brian Lenzi, who attended the party at Cullen’s house and thought Bush “presented himself very well” – but will lose conservatives at the same time.
“I think based on what I am hearing, he’s trying to appeal to the center and that’s not what I’m looking for,” fellow Cullen party attendee Fenton Groen told ABC News.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was in New Hampshire at the end of last week as well, making stops at VFW Halls upstate, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is scheduled to address a technology company as one of his stops today. On top of these individual visits, a growing list that now appears to be the entire possible Republican field will be back next month for the First in the Nation summit hosted by the New Hampshire GOP. But the New Hampshire residents who have been through the primary circus for decades know that it is early yet.
One indication – besides the calendar – comes from the manager of the Puritan’s Backroom restaurant, a restaurant and ice cream parlor that turns into a regular grip-and-grin stop at the heat of the campaign season.
“No one's come yet but it's very early,” she said Saturday afternoon. “They're mostly doing planned events now and they come by here later.”