Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told Republicans in New Hampshire on Friday that he will not expect a coronation if he seeks the 2016 presidential nomination.
"I will have to earn it if I get into the arena," Bush told several hundred people at the Republican Leadership Summit at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua. He is the son of one president and brother of another.
"No one's going to give it to me," Bush said. "That is more than apparent."
Bush is among 19 Republican presidential hopefuls — including three declared candidates — who are speaking at the two-day event, which ends Saturday.
Sponsored by the Republican Party of New Hampshire, the summit is being touted as the kickoff to the presidential primary season. The Granite State holds the nation's first primary on Jan. 26, 2016, one week after the Iowa caucuses.
The summit also is the largest fundraiser for the state GOP, expected to generate about $200,000, The New Hampshire Union Leader reports.
Others speaking Friday included Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who declared his White House bid on Monday; Rep. Pete King of New York; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; and three former governors: Jim Gilmore of Virginia, George Pataki of New York, and Rick Perry of Texas.
The two other announced GOP presidential contenders, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, are speaking on Saturday. Among those on the program are South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and billionaire businessman Donald Trump.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who said Friday that he would announce his intentions on May 5, is also set to speak on Saturday.
Of the major candidates considering a 2016 run, only retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson was not attending the summit. He cited a scheduling conflict.
"There's a new president coming, my friends," said New Hampshire GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Horn, praising the diversity of the Republican field. "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."
Clinton will visit New Hampshire on Monday.
The Leadership Summit capped a busy week for GOP hopefuls, many of whom barnstormed the state, attending public and private events. Christie, for instance, held a town hall meeting with local residents at a sports bar in Exeter, The Wall Street Journal reports.
At the New England Council's "Politics and Eggs" breakfast earlier Friday, Bush broke with many of his fellow presidential hopefuls by declaring that "the climate is changing" and calling for a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants.
"The people who want to come here are driving for success," Bush said.
He also slammed 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."
On the issue of climate change, Bush said that he was worried about it but that "to be honest with you, I'm more concerned with the hollowing out of our country, the hollowing out of our industrial core."
He said the onus was on the developing world to reduce its carbon emissions.
Perry, who left office in January as the longest-serving governor in Texas history, attacked the three declared Republican candidates.
"Listen, Ted and Rand and Marco are not only friends ... these are really incredibly bright, capable individuals who, I might add, all three of them give an amazing speech," he said.
"I mean, they get me up, standing up and pumping the air."
But after eight years of President Barack Obama, who was a senator before winning the White House in 2008, Perry asked, "Is that what Americans are going to be looking for? Or are they going to be more interested in someone who has substantial executive experience?"
Christie slammed Obama's leadership as aimless, saying other countries take advantage of that.
"People around the world know the same thing that the people of the United States know," the governor said, "that they have a weak president who has weakened our country, and they are taking advantage of that in every way they possibly can."
Emphasizing his direct style, Christie said people "are hungry for that after nearly seven years of the type of aimless leadership that we've had from Barack Obama."
Rubio ended the summit's first day by declaring that "America's greatest days are around the corner."
But the United States' "identity as a nation of exceptional opportunity" is in grave jeopardy because "we have too many leaders who are trapped in the past," Rubio said.
"People who still think it is the 20th century. People who think the ideas from yesterday will propel us into tomorrow. They never have and they never will."
The senator called the 2016 election a "referendum on our identity."
"What kind of country do we want to be? That is the fundamental question before us.
"Do we want to remain special?" Rubio asked. "Or are we prepared to become like everybody else?"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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