Bush was taking questions from a group of employees at a medical device company here in Somersworth, and there was suddenly a lull in questions, so Bush brought up a local hero: the New England Patriots' tight end.
"Anyone got Gronkowski in your fantasy football?" he asked, adding that his team is now 8-0. "Gronkowski is just kicking you-know-what. So I'm turning into a Pats fan little by little just because of this."
The small audience broke out into applause and cheers. Playing off the sudden burst of enthusiasm, Bush talked about going to high school with the Patriots coach, Bill Belichick."He's the greatest coach in NFL history. He's such a warm and fuzzy guy, too," he said with sarcasm.
Then he was asked by a voter to state his position on the "Deflategate" scandal.
Bush started answering the question, saying he hadn't been paying close attention to the controversy and admitted that he previously misunderstood what it actually was.
Then his media coaching kicked into gear.
In last week's CNBC debate, Bush was asked if there should be more regulation of fantasy football. Bush, who tends to answers the questions he's asked rather than dodging them or pivoting them to campaign talking point, said there could be some regulation.
But Chris Christie
quickly jumped in, rousing the audience to loud applause when he blasted the question as ridiculous media bias and said the government has more important issues to deal with rather than worry about fantasy football.
It was a moment that demonstrated what's become a weakness for Bush in a cutthroat Republican primary: He tries to play by the rules.
But his team has hired a consultant to train him
to play like the others on stage and not treat it like an actual debate.
"It's a chance to be able to say what you think. I'm going to take advantage of that," he told reporters Wednesday on his campaign bus. That includes not answering questions like he's used to.
So when it came time Thursday to give his take on "Deflategate," Bush seamlessly turned the answer into a soundbite.
After admitting he didn't know much about the scandal at first, he argued that "Deflategate" is "not going to be on my list of things to fret about. I worry about rising income for the middle class. That's what I worry about."
"We obsess about some really interesting things...that are like great topics of conversation and we kind of don't obsess about the things that are like hugely important -- the heroin epidemic in New Hampshire
, declining income for the middle class
, six million people stuck in poverty," he continued. "There's some big issues that we need to focus on. Deflategate is just a diversion that kind of keeps us entertained."
Just for good measure, Bush still closed the circle with a nod to the Patriot fans sitting in front of him.
"I'd take Brady any day of the week against any quarterback, how about that?" he added. "As long as he has Gronkowski."