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In N.H., Bush's 'Fix It' Message Works Better With Some Crowds Than Others

Jason Moon for NHPR
Bush addresses the media at the Hollis Pharmacy, a popular campaign stop for GOP N.H. Primary candidates

Bush began his day at Founders Academy charter school in Manchester, where he outlined his vision of what makes a great leader to a room full of students.

“My guess is, one of the great attributes of successful presidents is that they’re humble. They have humility. They recognize that it’s not all about them, it’s about having a servant’s heart and trying to fix things.”

Fixing things -- more specifically ‘fixing it’-- is the slogan for Bush’s renewed campaign strategy. But if the slogan is meant to convey the idea that Bush can get results, it’s also evocative of his tendency to get down in the details.

Credit Jason Moon for NHPR
Bush's campaign bus shows off his new slogan in Goffstown

Bush used the charter school event to talk education policy and tout his support for charters in Florida. But when he described his education-oriented campaign for Florida governor in 1998, the point got a bit bogged down in the details.

“I went to see 100 schools. I did it so fast I changed my mind; I said I needed to go see 200 schools. And eventually I got to 260 schools in 1998. That’s kinda hard if you think about it. Go back to your math classes this afternoon and try to sort this out. I started in January, I ended in November, and you take summer off right? Figure out how many schools a day that was -- and Saturday and Sunday schools weren’t open. It was an incredible experience.”

Later, at an event in Hollis, that same attention to the finer points worked to Bush’s advantage when a voter sparred with him over fiscal policy.

“I’m a guy who balanced 8 budgets and..."

An audience member interrupted, "By cutting taxes on the wealthy?

Bush continued without missing a beat.

"Eight billion dollars in reserves, our state went to triple-A bond rating, we were one of two states to do it, I cut taxes every year, personal income grew by 4.4 percent, the government grew by half that rate. If you wanna say how you pay for it, you don’t put it on the backs of working people; you cut the spending in Washington DC.”

That last line got applause.

Credit Jason Moon for NHPR
Bush at a roundtable discussion in Goffstown

Bush seemed most at home at his next event, a roundtable discussion with law enforcement officials in Goffstown. There, his wonkiness was in good company, with police from both Florida and New Hampshire discussing drug treatment and prevention programs among a host of other issues.

“I was pleasantly surprised. I came away with a better feeling.”

Alice D’Angelo lives in Windham. She says Bush’s combo of public servant/policy wonk was appealing, even if it's something comes across better in-person.

"It is a rough patch for him right now and…I think the media has a lot to do with that unfortunately, that’s why I wanted to hear it myself with my own ears and see what other people were feeling.”

That’s a sentiment that Bush is no doubt counting on as he continues with an aggressive New Hampshire schedule.

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