EXETER, N.H. — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard says she is “seriously considering” a bid for the White House in 2020.
Civil Beat caught up with the Hawaii congresswoman Sunday evening at a Rockingham County Democrat “meet and greet” where she gave a stump speech covering everything from her desire to get corporate money out of politics to ending America’s military adventurism abroad.
After the event she said she has no timeline for when she’ll officially announce her candidacy.
“I’ve been meeting with progressive leaders and activists who are doing the work that’s necessary on the ground to make the kind of change that we need to see across the country at the local level and the national level,” Gabbard said of her visit to New Hampshire.
“I have just been inspired in each of the conversations that I’m having because this is where it happens.”
Anyone seriously considering a run for the nation’s highest office must spend time with voters in New Hampshire, many of whom take pride in being the locale for the country’s first presidential primary every four years.
Gabbard previously travelled to the state in November to address a group of progressive activists and politicians. She’s also spent some time in Iowa, another state that’s a prerequisite stomping ground for presidential hopefuls because of its early caucuses.
When asked what she would tell her constituents in Hawaii about her visits to the mainland to put out presidential feelers, Gabbard, who’s a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard and an Iraq War veteran, said she’s doing it in the name of public service.
“As I have throughout my life in making the different decisions that I’ve made I am thinking about how I can best be of service to the people of this country,” she said.
Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to Congress, was a big draw for the Rockingham Democrats, turning a small gathering space into a standing room only event.
Even more impressive was the fact that she drew the crowd despite the fact that her talk overlapped with the kickoff of the NFL football game between the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings.
There were more than a few jokes made about the scheduling conflict, considering the Patriots are akin to their own religion in this part of the country.
“She’s more important to me than (Patriot quarterback) Tom Brady,” said Eric Jackman, who drove more than an hour with his twin brother to hear Gabbard’s pitch.
Like many others in attendance, Jackman has gotten used to seeing his share of presidential hopefuls work their way through the Granite State.
He described himself as a true independent. In 2016, he supported Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate who gained 3 percent of the popular vote. In years past he’s backed politicians such as Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich and John Kerry.
“She’s really the only Democrat I’ve been excited about in a long time,” Jackson said.
He said he was particularly impressed by Gabbard’s willingness to meet with those she might not agree with, including President Donald Trump and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Both visits raised more than a few eyebrows among Democrats and progressives.
Many observers considered her trip to Syria to be particularly damaging. She even saw a decline in favorability in her home state, although she’s still considered one of Hawaii’s most popular politicians.
The congresswoman fielded a number of questions from audience members, many of whom clearly relished the process of vetting presidential candidates.
For the most part it was a friendly crowd, one that clapped loudly when she discussed her desire to end U.S. involvement in “counter-productive regime change wars.”
She also discussed criminal justice reform, the need to address the opioid epidemic and her support of Medicare-for-all, topics that are high on the progressive agenda.
Natalie Ewing, of Exeter, described Gabbard as a “real progressive” and someone who wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she believed was right.
In particular, Ewing noted Gabbard’s support of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential election. Gabbard quit her post as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee so she could endorse Sanders over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“There are some candidates who have been calling themselves progressives recently because it’s a popular movement, but I think she’s the real deal,” Ewing said. “I really like her honesty and integrity.”
On her jacket Ewing wore a pin that said, “Run Tulsi Run.”
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