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Apr 18, 2015 11:44 AM

New Hampshire clash of Republican presidential contenders

The Associated Press

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) Republicans already in the 2016 presidential race or thinking about it have swarmed New Hampshire for an early state showdown that has highlighted the diversity, challenges and size of the emerging field.

About 20 politicians were on the program for a two-day conference hosted by the state GOP in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Speakers on Friday ranged from the party's elite to its longshots. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush delivered a standing-room-only speech while lesser-known South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced himself to voters one at a time in the hallway.

Bush pleaded for bipartisanship on a day when his moderate brand of politics was on display. He broke with many conservatives on the environment by declaring that "the climate is changing" and called for a path to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally.

"The people who want to come here are driving for success," Bush said of such immigrants.

He also criticized those who demonize their political adversaries. "I'm sick and tired of the political game where you push someone down to make yourself look better."

The leader of the New Hampshire GOP, Jennifer Horn, said, "There's a new president coming, my friends."

Praising the diversity of the Republican hopefuls, Horn said, "I'd like to also recognize at this time the broad, diverse, qualified field of candidates being offered by our friends in the Democratic Party, but I can't."

Dominating the Democratic contest is Hillary Rodham Clinton, who began her campaign this past the week. The 67-year-old former first lady and secretary of state planned to campaign in New Hampshire next week.

Just down the street from the Republican conference, a leading Democratic voice charged that all the Republican voices sound the same: "With all of their shared extreme views they might as well just be one," said Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Yet divisions were on display among the Republican candidates.

"We're not going to fix Washington by electing a president who is from Washington," said former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, offering a jab at the members of Congress eyeing the White House. "Change is only going to come from the outside, from my perspective, and so should the next president."

Bush said the United States must team up with other countries to fight climate change, a departure from the position of most rivals and many others in the GOP.

"We need to work with the rest of the world to find a way to reduce carbon emissions," he said. That won him praise from an unexpected quarter, Democratic billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, whose NextGen group issued a statement saying Bush demonstrated leadership on the issue and showed why "climate change doesn't have to be a partisan issue."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio reiterated the need for a new generation of leadership. If elected, the 43-year-old Rubio would be the third youngest American president.


Associated Press writers Holly Ramer, Kathleen Ronayne, Jill Colvin and Julie Pace contributed to this report.


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