NASHUA, N.H. — Making his second-to-last official stop of his New Hampshire primary campaign Monday, Jeb Bush immediately cast himself as an antidote to perceived Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
Speaking to a Rotary Club that his father addressed a generation ago as vice president, Bush made a case for pluralism and pointed to his 4-year-old granddaughter Georgia Helena Walker Bush as a “quadra-hyphenated American” — calling her “a Canadian-Iraqi-Texas-Mexican American.”
In his opening remarks, Bush called Trump one of those “politicians that push down a group of people to make themselves look better,” while casting himself as a Florida governor who listened to his constituents and a leader who can bring people together.
“Let me get this out of the way, and then I’ll get to something more positive. The front-running candidate for the Republican Party is that kind of [negative] politician,” Bush said, speaking to a Rotary luncheon at the Nashua Country Club. “Donald Trump organizes his campaign around disparaging people as a sign of strength. It’s not strong to insult women, it’s not strong to castigate Hispanics, it’s not strong to ridicule the disabled, and it’s certainly not strong to call people like John McCain or my friend Leo Thorsness, the Medal of Honor recipient who spent six years in a POW camp in Hanoi — it’s not strong to say they were a loser because they got caught.
“I think we need a president that actually believes in the American people, that won’t push everybody down to make themselves look good.”
Appearing energized, Bush paced back and forth behind the lectern and the long banquet table, gesturing emphatically during a half-hour stump speech and q-and-a. He called himself a candidate with a “servant’s heart” and vowed to be “focused like a laser beam on the mess in Washington, D.C.,” determined to build bipartisan relationships with Congress while also running a leaner federal government that empowers states to solve problems.
“It’s not a sign of weakness to say I want to find common ground,” said Bush, who described a series of what he called “Nixon in China” moments from his career — and from his aspirations as president — bringing unlikely parties together.
And he repeated a favorite line of his campaign, telling a military mother in the crowd that he would aim, like his father and Ronald Reagan, to achieve “peace through strength” by building an even more powerful military strengthening it through coalitions, “so that our friends know we have their back and our enemies fear us a little bit.”
Bush ended by “humbly asking for your support on Tuesday,” saying, “I will not let you down.”
Ushered from the lectern after 35 minutes, he claimed he wanted to keep talking — “they’re kicking me out the door,” Bush said — though the Rotarian who swept him toward the door seemed to have a different understanding. “Governor, thank you very much for joining us today; I believe your schedule has a ‘hard stop,’ ” he said.
Outside, Bush quickly boarded his campaign bus, which remained sitting in front of the snowy country club for at least half an hour more.
Earlier, Rotary Club president-elect Carol Farmer appeared to make a nod to Bush’s “please clap” moment last week. As she introduced guests from other Rotary Clubs in the room — including Bush’s brother, Neil — she asked the guests to stand.
“Now Jeb, should we all clap now?” she asked. “Would this be a good time to clap?”