Paul Steinhauser: In Iowa, O'Brien takes shots at Romney and Bush
CONCORD - Former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien criticized Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush on Saturday at a major conservative gathering in Iowa.
Speaking to hundreds of conservatives at the Iowa Freedom Summit, O'Brien said, "I don't know what is worse, nominating someone because he has been nominated twice before or nominating a liberal supporter of Common Core, because he has a familiar name."
While he didn't mention them by name, the references to Romney and Bush were crystal clear.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who ran for the White House in 2008 and was the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, and Bush, a former two-term Florida governor and son and brother to former presidents, have both said they're seriously considering 2016 White House runs, and both have taken concrete steps towards launching campaigns.
"We must not fall victim to the quadrennial phase that starts off with the establishment Republicans and the liberal media telling us to nominate a moderate so we can win, and ends up with a moderate losing," O'Brien said. "These moderates lose because they cannot draw distinctions between themselves and the real Democrat candidates."
The Freedom Summit, which is hosted by conservative Rep. Steve King, of Iowa, is the first major GOP cattle call this year in the race for the 2016 nomination. The speakers include Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, Govs. Chris Christie, of New Jersey, and Scott Walker, of Wisconsin, former Govs. Rick Perry, of Texas, and Mike Huckabee, of Arkansas, former Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former business executive Carly Fiorina, real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP's 2008 vice presidential nominee.
Neither Romney or Bush are attending the gathering in Iowa, which holds the first contest in the presidential primary and caucus calendar.
In his comments, O'Brien identified himself as the Republican leader of the New Hampshire House.
Earlier this month, O'Brien and scores of his supporters announced that they were forming an alternative Republican caucus to rival the House leadership caucus of Speaker Shawn Jasper, a fellow Republican who defeated O'Brien for the speakership last month with the help of Democratic representatives.