© 2024 KGOU
Photo of Lake Murray State Park showing Tucker Tower and the marina in the background
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Jeb Bush Begins Mission To Win-Over New Hampshire Voters


If Jeb Bush is to win the Republican presidential nomination, he'll need to do well in the state that holds the first primary - New Hampshire. That's why the former Florida governor was in a small but historic opera house in a classic New England setting this afternoon. It was his first town hall meeting as an official candidate. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea was there.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: In the town of Derry, N.H., this building, with its steep staircases and wraparound balcony, has hosted more political events than opera in recent times. On the sidewalk outside before Jeb Bush's arrival, divisions over his entry into the race were on display. Take 48-year-old Leah Wolczko, a state worker and a Republican.

LEAH WOLCZKO: I don't want a dynasty. I don't want another Bush. They don't have a good track record of protecting the middle class.

GONYEA: But then along came 60-year-old Dave Shinnick.

DAVE SHINNICK: I like the Bush heritage. I'd like to see what Jeb has to offer.

GONYEA: So the name is not an issue at all. In fact, that name is a plus?

SHINNICK: It's a plus for me.

GONYEA: Once the town hall meeting got underway, Jeb Bush treated this as a chance to introduce himself. His opening remarks included his promise to create sustained national economic growth of 4 percent.


JEB BUSH: I know how it's done because I've done it. I did it as governor of Florida. I cut taxes every year. I reduced the government workforce by 13,000.

GONYEA: But economists note that no president in the past 45 years has been able to claim such sustained growth. Bush also talked about his just-completed trip to Europe, including this.


BUSH: And then I went to this really cool country called Estonia. I recommend it for a lot of reasons. What I love about Estonia, first and foremost, is that you can fill out your taxes and pay your taxes in two minutes.


GONYEA: Later in the event, when talking about the need to simplify the tax code, he cited Estonia again. There were lots of questions about taxes and the size of government, not unusual in New Hampshire where such issues dominate Republican politics. Bush was not asked about two areas where he is most often criticized by conservatives - his support for common core education standards and for a path to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally. Asked about how he'd handle ISIS, his response focused on President Obama.


BUSH: We need an express strategy. This president has literally said twice in the last year that we don't have a strategy. Really? Well, who's supposed to be in charge?

GONYEA: And on Obamacare, he said it should be repealed and replaced, calling it a major hindrance to economic growth. One attendee asked how Bush would balance religious and personal freedoms. In his answer, he cited the Washington state flower shop that was sued for refusing service to a same-sex couple getting married. He spoke of finding the right balance.


BUSH: If someone walks into a flower shop and says, I'd like to buy flowers, you shouldn't be able to discriminate against them because they are gay. But if you're asking someone to participate in a religious ceremony or a marriage, they should have the right of conscious to be able to say, I love you, but I can't do it because it goes against my religious teachings. Does that make sense?

GONYEA: Bush seemed to be trying to set a different tone for his campaign. He spoke of civility in politics and said while he disagrees with many Democrats, he doesn't assume they have bad motives. But the attention during the GOP primaries will be his disagreements with the other Republican candidates. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Derry, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.