Attempts by Clinton, Bush to recast their images falter
GORHAM, N.H.- For Hillary Rodham Clinton, walking in Saturday’s Fourth of July parade in this mountain hamlet was supposed to showcase the sometimes-stiff candidate as accessible and in touch with the people— a champion for everyday Americans, as the Democratic presidential front-runner likes to put it.
But the image Clinton projected during this rare glimpse as a candidate away from the podium seemed to reinforce how very different she is from the voters she was courting. She marched briskly down Main Street in a cocoon of campaign staffers and Secret Service agents. Hecklers followed her, shouting epithets. The former secretary of state enthusiastically shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with supporters — “Good to see you!” “I need your vote.” “Let’s make it happen!” — but only occasionally slowed down to chat, such as when aides directed her to a Marine Corps veteran in a wheelchair.
The media, meanwhile, was kept at a distance and mostly out of earshot of Clinton’s interactions in this rural, working-class community. A few minutes into the parade, her aides unfurled a long rope across the street to physically block journalists from getting too close to the candidate.
“It feels like a coronation, doesn’t it?” one man shouted. “God bless the queen!”
Clinton, smiling in a red-whiteand-blue pantsuit and navy Salvatore Ferragamo patent leather flats, pretended not to hear him and remarked, “I actually love parades.”
At another parade at the other end of New Hampshire, another dynasty candidate also tried to shake impressions of being aloof.
Jeb Bush has been laboring to rid himself of the burdens of his family’s political legacy. But as the former Republican governor of Florida walked the parade route in Amherst, it became clear how difficult it would be for voters to distinguish him from his father and brother, both former presidents.
A few people accidentally called him George. One man wore a red T-shirt that said, “Bush Hat Trick,” a reference to when hockey players score three goals in a game. “Where did you get that shirt?” Bush asked begrudgingly. When an older woman said, “I love your mother,” the candidate replied, “I love her, too!” Others had different opinions. “No more Bushes!” one woman shouted at the candidate. “No more Bushes!”
Marching in Independence Day parades is a time-honored political tradition in New Hampshire, which hosts the first presidential primary. With seven months until the primary, candidates fanned out across the state Saturday to walk with their supporters carrying signs, balloons or other insignia— and to win over new fans.
In Wolfeboro, a picturesque tourist town on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) marched in the morning parade. Both candidates, as well as their families, had spent the night at the home of Wolfeboro’s most famous part-time resident: Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee. The three politicians were spotted getting ice cream together at Bailey’s Bubble on Friday night.
Former Texas governor Rick Perry (R), Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee (D) also marched in the Amherst parade with Bush. Other candidates had contingents if they, themselves, couldn’t participate. One of the biggest draws there was a blue school bus, powered by vegetable oil, to promote the candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Riding aboard the bus were two chickens, Clucky and Chucky.
Bush’s group was relatively subdued. Sporting chinos and a button-down shirt, Bush walked with about 30 campaign volunteers. Their big attraction was a 1961 silver Corvette with red leather interior, driven by state Sen. Russell Prescott.
“I’m carrying water for Jeb Bush,” Prescott said. He literally was: Acase of bottled water was on the floor of the car next to him. As the parade began, an EMT worker instructed Bush: “Keep everybody hydrated. I don’t want to have to work today.”
Bush was joined by son George P., the Texas land commissioner, and Bush’s daughter, Noelle, who rarely appears publicly with her father. Unlike her more gregarious brother, who kept near his father, she trailed behind, blending in with the crowd and handing out stickers.
Bush hustled on the parade route, darting back and forth across the street, seemingly determined to shake every hand on both sides. It was an impossible feat, of course, and quickly slowed down the parade. At one point, a parade marshal, Paula Schmida, asked Bush adviser Rich Killion to get the candidate to pick up the pace.
Like Clinton, Bush was confronted by aggressive activists, some of whom wore orange Tshirts and sunglasses furnished by Next Gen Climate, the group funded by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.
One young woman handed Bush a small cup with a slushy treat, telling him that it represented a warming planet.
“Oh, yeah? I already got one of those,” Bush told her.
“Our second one today,” Killion said as he took the treat from Bush and nudged the woman back.
When another woman haggled over climate change with Bush, the candidate, clearly aggravated, told her to “chill out!”
In Gorham, Clinton was joined onthe parade route by a few dozen supporters. They carried a big banner and signs with her H campaign logo and chanted “H-I-L-LA-R-Y!”
But one man followed closely at Clinton’s side with a very different message: “Benghazi,” read the home made sign, with what looked like red blood dripping from the letters. He screamed at her about the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Libya and her book-tour gaffe last year that she and former president Bill Clinton had been “dead broke.”
“Where were you when the phone rang at 3a.m. on September 11th?” he asked. “Tell us about when you were poor,” he demanded.
Across the way, a man on a bicycle shouted at Clinton: “What about Benghazi? What about the e-mails? You’re a liar!” One Clinton aide, noticing the man’s spandex biking outfit, shot back, “Nice shorts.”
Clinton did not seem fazed by the hecklers. Asked at the end how the parade went, she said, “It was fabulous!”
But by this point, the Clinton campaign’s rope line barring journalists had lighted up Twitter. Within about an hour, Jennifer Horn, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, was out with a statement calling the rope “a sad joke” and condemning Clinton for “arrogant and shameful behavior.”
“Hillary Clinton continues to demonstrate her obvious contempt and disdain for the Granite State’s style of grass-roots campaigning,” Horn said.
At day’s end, Clinton visited a diner-style restaurant in nearby Berlin to mix and mingle. “How are the fries?” she asked a woman and her two children, sliding into the booth to join them for a moment.
Clinton then headed to an empty table, where two slices of pie (blueberry and raspberry) awaited her. Reporters followed.
“Okay, you guys are not gonna film me eating,” she said, sitting down with aides Huma Abedin, Kristina Schake and Mike Vlacich.
When one reporter asked her about Donald Trump, Clinton demurred.
“You know,” she said, “I’m gonna sit down and have some pie.”
Jeb Bush, who is trying to shed his dynasty label, was accidentally called George a few times during the July 4 parade in Amherst, N.H.