New Hampshire Visit Offers Glimpse Into Possible Walker, Bush Rivalry
DON GONYEA, HOST:
This weekend in New Hampshire, there was snow on the ground and presidential hopefuls in living rooms and in high school gyms and at Dunkin' Donuts. The first primary of the next presidential election season takes place in the Granite State in February of 2016. But you might say the campaigns are off and running, even without official candidates. There were dueling appearances this weekend and a growing rivalry that we all knew would begin to assert itself sooner rather than later. Political writer James Pindell of the Boston Globe was and will be watching all of this. He joins me now. Greetings, James.
JAMES PINDELL: Thanks for having me.
GONYEA: So it feels like it's been just a little bit quiet in New Hampshire up to now, but governors Jeb Bush - former - and Scott Walker each made their first visits to the state this weekend in a long time.
PINDELL: That's right. You know, for both Walker and Bush, who had been leading polls in New Hampshire, this was the big weekend where they change from candidates in theory to candidates in reality. Of course, we should say that they're officially not candidates. But, you know, neither one had actually visited the state in years. For Jeb Bush, he has not been in New Hampshire for 15 years, since the night that his brother lost the New Hampshire primary in 2000. So it was going to be interesting to see this first weekend what kind of first impressions there would be, what sort of battle lines would exist between himself and Scott Walker.
GONYEA: And it looks a lot like classic New Hampshire campaigning - what we saw from these guys this weekend - small venues, voters up close. But I noticed there was one Granite State staple that was missing - the town hall.
PINDELL: It was a missing element. What they're really just trying to do it is sit down with some of the power players, you know, introduce themselves. And they're avoiding these big scale town hall meetings. These are just events where you show up, and real voters talk to potential, in this case, candidates for president about issues around the world or even here locally. That's where the magic in New Hampshire - and neither one of these two candidates, of Bush or Walker, really seemed to embrace that in their first trip.
GONYEA: So we're in New Hampshire. We've got Bush, the former Florida governor. We've got Walker, the Wisconsin governor. Each, it seems, with different goals for what they want to accomplish in that state - can you break it down for us?
PINDELL: New Hampshire right now has like three different lanes. It has one lane for establishment, where Jeb Bush is really competing with people like Chris Christie and others who want to appeal to more of the centrist establishment line. There's another lane, which is the conservatives, and that may be Ted Cruz, who is in New Hampshire today. That might be Scott Walker. That might be Dr. Ben Carson or Rick Perry, the former Texas governor. Then you have a third lane of libertarians, which is, like, Rand Paul. His father, by the way, got second place in the last New Hampshire primary.
The big thing here, though, is while Scott Walker could, you know, lockdown the conservatives, the one saving grace that Jeb Bush may have are independent voters who can vote in the New Hampshire primary. They can pick either party. And if Hillary Clinton is this dominate Democratic front runner, they're going to vote in the Republican primary, and Jeb Bush certainly hopes that they will.
GONYEA: And if this was a weekend where a lot of the focus was on Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, I suspect New Hampshirites will resist having the discussion focused on just two people as this thing rolls along.
PINDELL: A lot of things are going to change. One thing that's actually interesting about this New Hampshire primary right now - it's the tale of two different primaries. On the Republican side, it's the most wide-open primary we have seen since 1964. So for most people, there's no precedent in how this is going to play out. We have three people, with Rand Paul, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush all within a few points of each other. And then there's the Democratic primary, which is arguably the most dominant we've ever seen on non-incumbent, in Hillary Clinton, in U.S. history.
GONYEA: James Pindell, political reporter for the Boston Globe. Thanks for joining us.
PINDELL: Thanks for having me.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.