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Bush Unfazed by Supporters’ Reasons

November 23, 1999

STRATHAM, N.H. (AP) _ Touring a footwear company, George W. Bush on Monday brushed off the notion that people who support him for the GOP presidential nomination can’t say exactly why.

``That’s a good sign,″ he said, a day after a poll indicated more than a third of his backers couldn’t site a specific reason. ``People make up their minds in all kinds of ways. I think the people of New Hampshire, the more they know about me, they’ll see I’ve got an optimistic vision for America.″

The Los Angeles Times poll also showed Bush slightly leading Arizona Senator John McCain for support in New Hampshire, where the first-in-the-nation primary is held Feb. 1. Bush showed 44 percent support among those polled in the state compared to 36 percent for McCain.

``He’s making it a competitive race here, I understand that,″ said Bush, the governor of Texas. ``My job is to show people here I know how to lead.″

Only 17 percent of those in the poll who supported McCain could not name a reason.

During his tour of Timberland Co., Bush stopped and sewed a single stitch on a pair of shoes before giving a speech to several hundred employees.

``Governor, you’re a smash success,″ gushed the company’s president and chief executive officer, Jeffrey Swartz.

Clutching several pages printed from Bush’s campaign Web site, Rob Cartmell asked Bush how he would find the money to carry out his plan to increase military salaries and improve military housing. Cartmell said his brother is in the Army and has grown frustrated with the low morale.

``He loves what he does, he wants to stay in, but it’s very difficult,″ he said. ``Not to sound cynical, but he’s heard this before.″

Bush said his first goal would be a comprehensive review of all military projects to weed out unnecessary spending. ``What needs to happen is we need to have a strategic plan,″ he said.

Then he reverted to his stump speech, repeating his broad goals for tax reform, Social Security and education.

``I took advantage of your question, didn’t I?″ he said as he wound down a few minutes later. ``I headed into the wild blue yonder.″

Cartmell, 39, who works in the company’s licensing department, said he was satisfied.

``I think he has an overall strategy for the military,″ he said. ``I’ve just started to follow all this more closely. This is the time when details start to come out.″

A registered independent, Cartmell said he hasn’t decided who to vote for, but is interested in Democrat Bill Bradley.

Later, Bush couldn’t resist replaying a photo opportunity his father took advantage of during his 1988 campaign. At a party for his supporters given by former New Hampshire House Speaker Doug Scamman, Bush leaned over a fence to feed a cow wearing a ``Bush 2000″ sign.

``This cow eventually will shake my hand,″ he said.

It wasn’t the same cow his father befriended, however.

``I think they ate that one,″ one Bush aide said.

At a subsequent appearance in Seabrook, where property taxes will increase under the state’s new plan to pay for schools, Bush got the loudest applause for his support of local control for education when he described how he had cut taxes in Texas.

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