- The Washington Times - Monday, June 8, 2015

Former Gov. Jeb Bush plans to launch his presidential campaign in Florida next week before heading north to make his first stop as a declared candidate in New Hampshire, home to the first-in-the-nation primary and particularly friendly ground for more liberal GOP hopefuls.

Former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, meanwhile, traveled first to Iowa, following in the footsteps of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, both of whom then bounced to South Carolina, home of the first primary in the South, and good territory for the kinds of social conservatives that the three men are likely to attract to their campaigns.

Indeed, GOP candidates’ early schedules say lots about their state-by-state strategies for making waves in the primaries and what early wins they hope will keep them alive for the later rounds.

“The travel schedule is just about trying to design a personality for the campaign,” said Larry Jacobs, political science professor at the University of Minnesota. “If you are going to New Hampshire you are saying we think independent voters and conservatives are targets for us. In Iowa, you tend to see the social conservatives, kind of the Huckabee voters, being more prominent.”

Then there are the out-of-the-box schedules such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who announced his bid at Liberty University in Virginia, a bastion of religious conservatives but in a state unlikely to play a major role in the primaries. Mr. Cruz then headed to New York, where he courted wealthy donors, suggesting his major early campaign goal was to prove he could raise the kind of money needed to be competitive.

Iowa’s caucuses will kick off the primary calendar next year, followed quickly by primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina, making them the most prominent states for early campaign visits. A win in one of those states is considered crucial for a candidate to show viability — but candidates also want to make sure if they compete, they don’t get shut out, which could be a campaign-ending bungle.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina’s senior senator, announced his long-shot presidential bid in his home state, but immediately headed to New Hampshire, which is likely friendly territory for him. He made clear he understands the voters of the state, known as fiscally conservative and socially moderate, where independents are allowed to cast ballots in either party’s primary.

“I’m a proud conservative, but I’ve got an independent streak within me,” he told a local newspaper. “This is a place, if I’m gonna do well, I should do well here.”

Analysts say New Hampshire could also play a major role in Mr. Bush’s chances of winning the nomination.

The former governor, who is the son and brother of previous GOP presidents, acknowledged as much during an impromptu visit to New Hampshire over the weekend, where he talked about his plans to return to the state the very night he officially jumps into the race June 15.

“This is the first in the nation primary. It has a disproportionate say in weeding out the field for sure. So it’s really important. And it a great place to campaign for someone like me,” he told NH1 News. “I get to tell my story. People can challenge it. This is the way to campaign. Get outside your comfort zone. I don’t think we should be campaigning in little protective bubbles, and in New Hampshire you can’t do that. You have to be out among people.”

Donald Trump also plans to travel to New Hampshire next week after making a big announcement on June 16 at the Trump Tower in New York City.

Campaign kickoffs, while symbolically important, are only half of the story.

Most of the candidates spent months ahead of time making test-visits to the three politically important states, with Mr. Perry totaling 16 trips to Iowa since 2013. Mr. Santorum and Mr. Huckabee have been there 15 times, and Mr. Cruz has been there a dozen times, according to Democracy in Action.

“Those guys go to Iowa because you fish where the fish are,” said Patrick Griffin, a GOP strategist. “That is where their base is. They believe that is where the party needs to go.”

Just as important were they are heeded, is where they are spending less time.

Mr. Perry is an example, having made ten more visits to Iowa than New Hampshire. It is a similar story for Mr. Santorum, who has been to the Granite State just twice, and Mr. Huckabee who has been there four times.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, meanwhile, has four more trips to New Hampshire than Iowa.

Mr. Paul has been among the most ecumenical, having paid 10 visits to Iowa and New Hampshire.

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