Two Republican candidates. Two town halls. One swing state.
That was the case on Wednesday night in New Hampshire when GOP front-runner Donald Trump hosted his first town hall of the presidential campaign season in Derry at the exact same time as his GOP rival, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, hosted one less than 15 miles away in Merrimack.
But while Trump's town hall featured the billionaire businessman's signature bombast and a crowd of about 1,200, Bush's was much less of a spectacle.
Speaking to about 200 people, Bush stuck to his usual talking points — veteran care, cutting taxes and foreign policy — and fielded an array of questions from audience members on topics ranging from ISIS to — you guessed it — the Donald.
Do you have a "plan of attack" to beat Trump for in the GOP primary, one person wanted to know. "He's the current front-runner. He's done an amazing job to get to that point," Bush said before touting his own "consistent, proven, conservative record." Trump, by contrast, Bush said, was a Democrat for longer than he's been a Republican and has donated more money to Democratic campaigns than Republican ones. Additionally, Bush said, Trump supports a "tax on assets," something Bush said is "not a conservative value."
Asked about illegal immigration, Bush said the U.S. should expand the number of border patrol and ICE agents, and deport criminals. On America's "crippling" student loan program, Bush said "we need to reform" it. About Obamacare, Bush insisted "you need a Republican president to repeal" it. Meanwhile, over at Trump's event, the real estate mogul said Bush's position on immigration renders him "un-electable."
But the issue that arose more than any other for Bush on Wednesday night was the threat ISIS poses to the United States. “We need to create a strategy” against ISIS, Bush said, adding, "There's blood on the hands of Iranians" in Iraq.
As to whether he would "rip up" the Iran nuclear deal if it has passed by the time he becomes president, Bush hedged some: "I'll certainly look at it," he said.