(Ames, IA) The First Lady of Texas entered the banquet room and walked to the first table, grabbing the back of the chair and announcing, “I’m Laura Bush.”
After signing an autograph on a baseball and posing for pictures with a supporter’s grandchild, she moved to the next table, announcing herself to the eight people who were in the midst of a deli sandwich lunch.
“I just think she’s a special lady and I hope that she and her husband are successful in their bid for the White House,” said Susan Bokhoven of Ames, who posed for a picture with Mrs. Bush.
“She’s a very lovely lady,” said Merle Garman of rural Ames, who sat next to Mrs. Bush, who did not eat. “She’d make a great first lady…but in the Garman household we haven’t picked a horse yet” among the candidates seeking the G.O.P. presidential nomination.
Mrs. Bush delivered a nearly 10 minute speech to the gathering of about 85 Iowans.
“This is my first solo trip on George’s presidential campaign,” Mrs. Bush said. “I’m glad that the first trip is to Ames, Iowa. In fact, I hear there’s a fairly important event on the horizon here, something about a straw poll.”
The Bush campaign placed a postcard at each place setting, touting the line-up of entertainment which Bush will bring to his party in Ames, before the straw poll speechmaking and voting on August 14.
Sports stars like former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Nick Lowery and, health permitting, Sean Elliott of the San Antonio Spurs will attend. Country musicians Tracy Byrd and Linda Davis will give concerts. There will be barbecue to eat and a $25 ticket to the straw poll — all free, courtesy of the well-financed Bush campaign.
In her carefully scripted remarks in Ames on Thursday, Mrs. Bush said she knew nothing about politics before marrying George W. Bush.
“I think America is ready for a new kind of leader, someone who has an optimistic message for our country, who’s positive, hopeful and inclusive. Someone who united people instead of dividing them,” Mrs. Bush said.
She briefly mentioned her mother-in-law, the popular ex-First Lady Barbara Bush, and her daughters, 17-year-old twins Barbara and Jenna, who are named after their grandmothers.
“According to my children, life with their dad is like being a private under the direct command of a general and according to my husband, war is hell,” she said, laughing.
The Texas native made one, brief mention of her marriage to the man who is the son of a former president and the front-runner for the Republican party’s next presidential nomination.
“Like every other family, my husband and I have had our share of fun and frustrations in 21 years of marriage. Overall, though, I think we’re pretty pleased with our success. We’ve managed to raise two smart daughters and a half a dozen of their animals…I consider myself blessed to be his partner in life,” Mrs. Bush said.
Mrs. Bush holds a masters in library science and was a librarian and elementary school teacher for 10 years. She is the founder of the Texas Book Festival, which celebrates Texas authors and raises money for libraries. After her appearance in Ames, she traveled to Des Moines to read to second graders at an inner-city school. Her selection: “Officer Buckle and Gloria,” a book about safety.
On Thursday evening, Mrs. Bush was the keynote speaker at the Iowa Federation of Republican Women’s 60th anniversary dinner. On Friday morning, she plans to eat breakfast with volunteers at the Bush campaign headquarters in Clive, Iowa.
Mrs. Bush joins the band of women and the man who are campaigning on behalf of their spouses in Iowa. Bob Dole, Honey Alexander, Marilyn Quayle, Ernestine Bradley and Tipper Gore have all made individual campaign appearances this year on their candidate-spouses’ behalf.