Boston, Massachusetts (CNS) Texas Governor George Bush left New Hampshire yesterday, after a 36 hour whirlwind visit that attracted nearly 250 print and broadcast media, and headed for the Bay State, where thanks to a $1,000 per person luncheon, his campaign picked up another $800,000.
The figure was $300,000 more than hoped for from the 500 people who responded to an invitation from Massachusetts Governor Paul Celluci, one of 19 GOP governors who have thrown their support to the Texan.
In terms of dollars raised, the event was the largest fund-raiser ever held for a Republican in the Bay State, where Democrats are in tight control of the state House and Senate and where the GOP holds none of the Congressional or U.S. Senate seats.
"Not a bad take for a visit that lasted less than six hours," said one of those who attended the buffet offering at the downtown Park Plaza Hotel
In what has become his stump speech, and as he did during a day and a half stay in nearby New Hampshire, Bush continued to define himself as a "compassionate conservative," and insisted the party's standard bearer can be both conservative and a person of compassion.
"There will be plenty of time for 10 point plans," said the governor, as he again declined to offer specifics on any issue. "What I want to share with you today, is why I am seeking the presidency."
Bush then repeated the campaign's three broadly stated goals; the return to an era of personal accountability; a commitment to educational reform and the marshaling of compassionate resources, community by community.
"I am running, because I want my party to match a conservative mind, with a compassionate heart," he said.
Pledging to work for the passage of "real tort reform," and calling for free trade, including the ending of all tariffs, before an audience dominated by business people, Bush added, "The fearful build walls. The confident tear them down."
Then, characterizing the globe as "a world of terrorism, missiles and madmen," the governor added, "We're challenged by aging weapons and poor intelligence."
Calling for the development of an anti-ballistic missile system, in a state heavy with defense and high tech contractors, Bush told his audience his will be a foreign policy "with a touch of iron, driven by American values."
Other than these references, there was no mention of foreign policy, including the Balkans.
Absent too was any mention of abortion and the imposition of a litmus test for federal judicial nominees. In an appearance in New Castle, NH, Monday, the governor said he would impose no abortion-related litmus test on nominees for the federal bench. The remarks drew immediate condemnation from opponents.
Bush assured the gathering he will be "an activist president, who sets goals worthy of a great nation," and added, "Government can't be all things to all people. It can do a few things and do them well."
Bush also encountered his first protesters of his infant campaign. Carrying signs, which read, "Gunslinger Bush Go Home," and "Bush Plus NRA Means More Dead Kids," members of the group Stop Handgun Violence picketed in front of the hotel.
"This Bush is in the pocket of the National Rifle Association," said spokesman Ron Rosenthal, who criticized Bush for failing to support background checks at gun shows. "He walks in lock step with them."
Of those in attendance, many said they would support the Texan over any other Republican aspirant. Asked about the lack of specifics, few were bothered and most said it was a good strategy.
"I like the fact that he has been low key," said Kelsa Fuller, a public relations executive from Auburn, MA, "Because of his lead in the polls, there is no need to come out full force so early."
"It will take as long as it will take," said Lois Catanzaro, of Revere, MA. "I'm not bothered at all by the lack of specifics. It's a good strategy. Whatever he eventually announces, needs to be well thought out."
"As soon as he says anything, the opposition, Republican, Democrats and the press, will kill him. So why say more than he absolutely must," said a supporter who asked that her name not be used.
And for many in the crowd, the fact that the governor is a Bush was a key selling point.
In both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, people insisted George W. Bush would benefit from his family name and the affection many voters have for his parents.
"His family name and the fact that people in both parties are fed up with Clinton and Gore, will get him votes. There are a whole lot of people who now regret not having voted for the father in 1992," said Roger Trane, a businessman from Atlanta, staying at the hotel.
"He has great moral character, because he comes from a great family. That will get him votes," said Gail Uhl, a nurse practitioner from the town of Southborough.
"He has good moral character. His mom and dad raised him right," added Christopher Uhl.
Of the two dozen people interviewed yesterday, virtually all insisted they were committed to the Texan. Asked to name a second and third choice, should Bush falter, John McCain and Elizabeth Dole, were most frequently mentioned, while former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander, came in a distant third.