SOMERSWORTH, N.H. (AP) — There’s been a little more shouting this week from Jeb Bush, and a little more salty language, too, as the Republican candidate for president tries to reboot a campaign that’s fallen from front-running to middle of the pack.
But what hasn’t changed is the message. And, Bush says, it won’t.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, the former Florida governor said he’s convinced the anger with politics and desire for an outsider that’s made front-runners of Donald Trump and Ben Carson will fade.
He sticking with his belief that by the time primary voting begins in a little more than 90 days, the frustration that’s driving today’s preference polls will evolve into pragmatism at the ballot.
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“You have to paint a picture that’s significantly better than what we have, and that’s why I’m confident that over the long haul people will adjust their thinking about who they are going to vote for,” Bush told the AP.
Bush spoke toward the end of a three-day trip through New Hampshire, the state where his campaign has decided to focus its efforts as part of a reset that’s included staff cuts and reduced spending. The much-touted “Jeb Can Fix It” tour covered 10 stops and more than 300 miles and included meeting with roughly 1,000 voters.
At each stop, Bush elevated the intensity of his appearances, injecting more emotion into his stump speech and projecting a sense of urgency in his unsparing criticism of President Barack Obama and his party’s front-runner for the nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But while it’s a message delivered with more oomph, the context isn’t much different from what he’s said since launching his White House bid last summer.
Bush is convinced that voters will come around. The daily up and down of the campaign, the steady stream of state and national polls, attacks and counter attacks are just noise to him, he said.
“It doesn’t matter. It has no meaning,” Bush told reporters on his bus Wednesday. “I have enough self-awareness to know that I’m in the middle of the pack, but I know how I need to get where I need to be and worrying about the here-and-now is just completely irrelevant.”
Bush’s tour through New Hampshire coincided with his affiliated super PAC broadening its television advertising plan. The group Right to Rise reserved almost $6 million worth of in advertising in Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma, which are among the 11 states scheduled to hold primaries on March 1, according to Kantar Media’s CMAG advertising tracker.
Those new reservations put the group on pace to spend roughly $50 million on TV ads — about half of the more than $100 million it raised in the first six months of the year.
The largest share, by far, of the super PAC’s advertising money is being pumped into New Hampshire. By the time voters there go to the polls in early February, Right to Rise will have spent at least $23 million on commercials to reach them.
Among them is Julia King, of Bartlett, who saw Bush in person for the first time Thursday morning at a senior center in North Conway and found Bush’s “sense of purpose sincere.”
“I think he a very genuine human being, with no trace of guile about him,” the retired college English teacher said.
A voracious reader whose curiosity shows when he asks voters questions, Bush told the AP he sees scientific, technological and manufacturing advances all the time — and he is trying to make that real for voters. He described an investment banker he met in San Francisco who is working with researchers on a novel drug to fight cancer.
“There are thousands of things like that going on all around us. We’re moving into a world of incredible abundance and purpose,” Bush said. “The question is, is everybody going to have the capacity to embrace this?”
However, Bush’s optimism is not finite. Overshadowed by Trump and Carson, and edged recently in early-state preference polls by Florida rival Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Bush said he has his work cut out for him.
“We still have a long hard fight. I’m not suggesting this is just all going to fall in my lap. I’m going to go earn it,” he said. “I just get up every day and express this belief that we’re on the verge of greatness again.”
Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington contributed to this report.
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