On The Political Front: In NH, Bush, Walker Lay Groundwork For Presidential Run

Mar 16, 2015

Jeb Bush
Credit NHPR / Josh Rogers

It’s Monday morning. NHPR’s Josh Rogers joins Morning Edition to discuss developments on NH’s political front.

Lots of political activity over the weekend Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz all paying their respects to local Republicans. House budget writers busy. Let’s start with presidential politics.

Sure, and don’t forget Texas Governor Rick Perry. He was here late last week, too. All the activity indicates how wide open this Republican race is. Most would tell you top two candidates – and that’s according to polls that are pretty meaningless right now – are Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. And their visits were their first trips to New Hampshire as possible candidates. For both it was really a change to introduce themselves to local Republicans. Tellingly, both men did as much – if not more – private politicking with key Republicans as they did meeting with rank and file voters. Both, played to type, and pretty clearly got over the bar of demonstrating why they could be formidable candidates.

What do you mean?

Well, Jeb Bush, of course,  hold positions on immigration reform and the Common Core education standards - he strongly backs both – that put his at odds with many GOP primary voters. He faced this squarely during his visit and said basically, leaders persuade people. Describing oneself as being “all in” in Common Core isn’t something we are going to hear from other Republicans. Bush also displayed what appeared to be a real ease in dealing with a swarm of reporters, taking a bunch of questions. He acknowledged the benefit and burden of being a member of the Bush family.

The events he did, a Nashua Chamber of Commerce roundtable and a house party at the home for former GOP chair Fergus Cullen, weren’t exactly venues where ultra staunch conservatives were likely to crop up, but I’ve talked to no one who thought he trip went reasonably well or better. He says he’ll be back a bunch, which is of course what they all say, but Bush appeared to mean it.

How about Scott Walker?

Scott Walker
Credit josh rogers/nhpr

Walker held one open event – a state GOP organizing event at in Concord. And he went over big. Outside labor groups were protesting, but those inside, and in particular, conservatives, really like him. And he’s a good messenger for an anti-Washington, populist conservative message. His speech played up his modest roots. Son of a preacher. Had a job flipping burgers at McDonalds .He said he’s never been to the east coast before he traveled to a governor's association meeting in Philadelphia. 

Walker was at complete ease talking guns with Second Amendment activists. And he bragged about  buying a sweater for $1 during the trip using coupons at Kohl's. He said even raised the possibility of traveling the state via Harley when the weather improves. He also several times described himself as “the number one target” of liberals and unions due to his anti-collective bargaining stances in Wisconsin. He also tried to push back charges being stoked by the Bush camp that he’d flip-flopped on some issues, most notably immigration. Walker used to favor a path to citizenship for people here illegally. He no longer does.

When pressed by reporters he chalked up the change to “listening to the people.” And I can say the Republicans at the event in  concord, seemed to like him a good deal. He also visited with local media along he way, and based on Joe McQuaid’s tweets, he seemed to go over pretty well at the Union Leader, too. So, Walker did fine here.

 Now state budget writers didn’t take weekend off either, and they are heading towards big decisions on the state’s next funding plan?

Credit Allegra Boverman / NHPR

Indeed. This is the time of year when the House budget process really picks up steam. And basically what’s going on is the GOP-led House is trying to balance a budget without increasing taxes, or including any of the new revenue proposed by Gov. Hassan with the possible exception of  a hike to auto registration fees. Couple that with revenue estimates that are more conservative that those used by the governor. And you are talking a difference of more than $300 million.

Making the numbers work  will likely mean  spending and services being nixed at the department of health and human services. And House budget writers, are signaling they may have the stomach for big changes. Sunday, they made the preliminary recommended allowing Medicaid expansion to expire at the end of next year. Medicaid expansion has already added close to  expected 40,000 people the insurance rolls and was something the governor points to as a major accomplishment. Things can and do tend change a lot in the budget at this time of year and again when the process moves to the Senate next month. But this move, suggests this budget won’t be one where agreement across the aisle is likely.