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Last weekend it was Iowa, this weekend it’s New Hampshire: Two big trips to two influential presidential nominating states for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
At his first public appearance in New Hampshire, Bush waded into the discussion of foreign policy, declining to weigh in in the Republican's letter to Iran and by saying he wanted to put a "small force" of U.S. troops back into Iraq. He also continued to carefully explain his support of Common Core education standards, saying he supports the standards but not the government's involvement.
Bush’s visit comes amid a week where the presidential race has begun to heat up – even though no candidate has yet declared their candidacy. New polls released in the past week show Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in the top tier alongside Bush, and Walker declared himself the “front runner” of the not-yet-officially-existent presidential race.
That rivalry continues in New Hampshire where both candidates are traversing the state and have already taped interviews with local station WMUR’s “Close Up” program, which will air there Sunday. Republican contenders including former Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas Senator Ted Cruz are also spending time in New Hampshire this week.
Speaking to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce gathered at a business called Integra Biosciences, Bush was asked about the controversial Common Core education standards, saying "the effort was a good one and I support that effort because I think we're fooling ourselves" by thinking children are adequately educated after they leave high school.
Bush continues to test his nuanced answer to to the Common Core dilemma that casts a shadow over his potential campaign because of conservative opposition by pointing out that while he supports the standards he doesn't support the federal government's requirement for states to impose the standards in exchange for federal funding.
"That was wrong," he said of the federal government's involvement.
"Yes it's controversial," he said. "I've learned though that because something's controversial ... you don't abandon your core beliefs."
Bush also addressed foreign policy at his event, saying that the U.S. needs to "reengage with some small force level" in Iraq to fill the vacuum that was created after the U.S. withdrew troops.
He called for a "protected zone" in northeast Syria where a Syrian and international army can be assembled to fight ISIS.
When asked about the letter that 47 Republican senators sent to Iran saying they would not approve any agreement negotiated between Iran and President Barack Obama, Bush deflected, saying he's "not a senator." Three potential presidential candidates have said they support the letter.
As for Walker, his only event open to the press is a New Hampshire Republican grassroots training event Saturday. According to his aides' Twitter feeds, Walker is on the New Hampshire diner circuit, meeting with voters as well as influential Republicans. He met with former Massachusetts senator and former New Hampshire senate candidate Scott Brown at the Red Arrow Diner. He also is holding meetings with former Governor John Sununu and current Senate President Chuck Morse.
While most of his events and meetings have been closed to the press, Walker has been giving select media interviews. He spoke with local station WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader. He also sat down with the Tampa Bay Times while there, which is notable since it is one of the home state papers of two potential rivals, Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. In a knock on Bush in that interview he said the Republican Party needs “a name from the future – not a name from the past – to win.”
Walker said Rubio is “great at foreign policy,” an issue Walker has little experience, but said the “most significant president in terms of foreign policy was a governor – Ronald Reagan. The most important ingredient in foreign policy is leadership.”