AMHERST, N.H. — Alongside the patriotic music and waving flags Saturday in parades across Iowa and New Hampshire were clear reminders of a presidential race coming up next year: Red balloons promoting “Jeb! 2016,” a tractor draped in a Rick Perry banner and dutiful volunteers holding signs and chanting for their chosen candidates.
Marching in Fourth of July parades in these early voting states has become a tradition for politicians seeking the White House, giving them a chance to boost their name recognition and glad-hand with voters.
Former Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island as well as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham worked the crowd in Amherst, while Hillary Rodham Clinton marched in a parade in New Hampshire’s North Country. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spent the holiday in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley met voters in Iowa.
Clinton marched in a Fourth of July parade in Gorham, New Hampshire, trailed by a band of supporters waving signs and separated by a long rope from the pack of journalists that followed.
“I’ll tell you what — we need to get a Democratic president,” Clinton told one woman along the parade route, who asked about the health care overhaul. “I’m going to not only defend it, I’m going to make it even better.”
One man who carried a sign that read, “Benghazi” also followed the candidate. Alluding to her time representing New York in the Senate, he screamed repeatedly, “Carpetbagger!”
Another man on the route yelled, “What about Benghazi? What about the emails?”
Clinton smiled broadly, shaking hands and stopping for quick photos. At one point, she posed for a photo with two New Hampshire beauty pageant contestants, who playfully flexed their biceps.
Graham and Perry brought the energy to Amherst, running through the streets waving, shouting jokes and posing for photos.
“Sorry the government’s so screwed up!” Graham shouted to the crowd numerous times, often followed by an apology to any children in the crowd about the future of Social Security.
The former governor and current senator shook hands in the street, prompting jokes of a Perry-Graham presidential ticket. Later, Perry snapped a cell phone picture of Graham with two voters outside their home.
Chafee, meanwhile, walked the route with just a few aides and no large signs bearing his name — nothing to indicate he’s vying for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Bush took a more methodical approach, shaking so many hands that his team had to nearly run down an entire street to catch up with the procession. His campaign handed out red “Jeb! 2016” balloons along the entire parade route.
“There’s nothing behind us — other than Hillary,” Bush joked to a voter who chided him for holding up the parade. While Clinton campaigned elsewhere, a team of her supporters marched right behind Bush’s, their blue signs in sharp contrast with his red.
With his son George P. Bush, Texas’s land commissioner, by his side, Bush picked up a number of small children, posed for selfies and thanked voters who said they’ve been longtime fans of the Bushs. One of those voters wore a shirt that said “Bush Hat Trick.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he got clear instructions on how to behave in an Iowa parade — no throwing things to the crowd.
Jindal walked in a July Fourth parade in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale. Accompanied by his wife, Jindal was the only Republican presidential candidate there, though other contenders had representatives there.
Jindal said he was cautioned that Iowa and Louisiana parades are different.
“We’re used to throwing things in Louisiana parades. We’re told that’s not allowed here,” he said.
Jindal said that one of the first time the family went to Disney World, the children were upset because Mickey Mouse didn’t throw them anything.
“In Louisiana every single parade, not just Mardi Gras, you’re supposed to throw things,” the governor said.
Jindal kicked off the parade shaking hands and posing for selfies. He was scheduled to appear at another parade in the area later in the day. He has been campaigning in the kickoff caucus state since Tuesday.
Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey in Urbandale, Iowa, contributed to this report.