2016 presidential hopefuls celebrate Fourth of July -- with voters

Republicans descend on New Hampshire July 4th weekend
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Story highlights

  • Around a dozen declared White House aspirants parachuted into the early primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa on Saturday.
  • The patriotic national holiday has long been an important opportunity for White House aspirants to woo early state voters.

Gorham, New Hampshire (CNN)For the 2016 presidential candidates, this Fourth of July weekend means a whole lot of barbeques, parades and fireworks -- and, of course, courting voters.

Around a dozen declared White House aspirants parachuted into the early primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa on Saturday to participate in a range of festivities, including marching in town parades and mingling with voters at cook-outs and house parties.
The patriotic national holiday has long been an important opportunity for White House aspirants to woo early state voters, many of whom are still months away from deciding who they will support to be the next President.
    Here in this northern New Hampshire town, residents were eagerly anticipating one of the best-known national political celebrities to walk in their afternoon parade: Hillary Clinton.
    "I am a little surprised that she's coming all the way up to Gorham, but I think it's pretty cool," said Carl Herz, 28, from the nearby town of Randolph.
    A Democrat, Herz said he is likely to support Clinton but has been impressed with the message of one of Clinton's Democratic opponents: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
    "I like what Bernie Sanders is all about, but I kind of feel like if he won the primary, he'd be unelectable because he's a little bit too radical," Herz said. "I just think Hillary is more electable."
    As a part of her fourth visit to the state since launching her campaign, the Democratic frontrunner and former secretary of state has faced questions about Sanders' growing momentum, particularly following a recent rally in Wisconsin that drew close to 10,000 supporters.
    During a visit to a local ice cream store near Hanover on Friday, Clinton played down questions about her former colleague in the Senate, saying: "We each run our own campaigns, and I always knew this was going to be competitive."
    But Clinton was dogged in the parade by a man protesting her role leading the State Department during the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
    "Hillary, where were you at 3 a.m. when the phone rang on September 11th?" he shouted. "Can you name one accomplishment at State? Just one?"
    Asked about the protester, Clinton simply said, "I'm just having a good time meeting everybody."

    Competing candidates become cordial

    A number of other candidates fanned out across the state to do their own July 4th campaigning.
    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham were spending time in Amherst. The three of them were practically back to back in the parade -- so much so that they frequently bumped into each other as they shook hands on the street.
    As the event was getting started, Perry saw Bush and ran over to his fellow former governor to greet him.
    "It's fun to do parades," Perry said.
    "I saw you, you did great on the Fox deal with Bret Baier," Bush told Perry.
    "This is a good exercise," Perry replied.
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    Bush then brought over his son, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and introduced Perry to his daughter, Noelle.
    Perry and Graham especially overlapped in the parade, high-fiving each other each time. At one point, a reporter asked the two who would be on top of a Perry-Graham ticket. "He's on the top," Graham said, pointing to Perry.
    At another point, Perry offered to take a photo of Graham with other voters. Then the two candidates partook in their own photo. "Let's send this one to Hillary," Graham joked.
    A well-known dog lover, Perry enjoyed stopping at each dog he saw and ask the owner for the name. He'd then point to a dog that was traveling in his entourage -- a golden doodle named Lincoln. "That's Lincoln over there," he would say each time.
    Perry kept a jogging pace throughout much of the parade, waving his arms in the air and yelling "Happy Independence Day!" as he fired up the crowds. A large John Deere tractor followed him, carrying a trailer of Perry supporters who helped pass out Perry stickers.
    Voters would often point out if they were from Texas or mention relatives from the Lone Star State. Perry would mention the 95 degree weather in Texas and note that "it's good to be up here."
    The candidates often had a hard time keeping up with the parade because they frequently stopped to take photos and shake hands, bringing their own political touch to the parade. Instead of saying "cheese," Graham encouraged voters to say a different word as he posed with families for photos.
    "Say 'flat tax'," he said, drawing laughs.
    Near the three Republicans, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for President and is trailing far behind in the polls, was introducing himself to voters.
    "Hey folks," he said. "I'm Lincoln Chafee, running for President."

    Courting Romney

    Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- who launched his White House bid on Tuesday -- were in Wolfeboro. In fact, the two rivals spent Friday night at the lake home of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
    The large group of GOP candidates this cycle are actively seeking to win the support of not only Romney -- who has indicated he may not make an official endorsement in the primary -- but some of Romney's major donors from 2012, as well.
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    Christie told reporters Friday that it was too early for 2016 candidates to be thinking about endorsements from national GOP figures like Romney, and praised the former Massachusetts governor for being a ready "resource" for the party.
    "What matters most to me is he's a resource for me, and he is. He always takes my calls, lets me use him as a sounding board," Christie said. "I consider him a really good friend."
    Judd Gregg, the former Republican New Hampshire senator and governor, said the July Fourth weekend is an important opportunity for candidates to introduce themselves to undecided voters in early primary states.
    "People aren't going to make up their minds by how somebody marches in a parade, but they will say, 'This guy wants it and he's trying and he's coming to New Hampshire to show he's trying,'" Gregg told CNN. "So it's part of establishing your bona fides, showing you're willing to go out and meet the voters and be available, which is a big part of the New Hampshire primary."