EXETER — One day after being left out of a Republican presidential primary debate in Manchester, John Cox walked the streets of downtown Exeter, visiting with business owners and shoppers.
Introducing himself Wednesday as a candidate for president of the United States to a couple browsing in the window of Betty LaBranch Realty on Water Street, Cox, 51, of Illinois, said, "I'm also a Realtor."
Cindy and Phil Farbaniec laughed, thinking Cox was joking. "He really surprised me," Cindy Farbaniec said. "I really did think he was a Realtor. I thought, 'Oh, that's a great segue into the business.'"
Cox, who is in fact a certified Realtor and an accountant, informed the Exeter residents he visited that he is a businessman and not a well-known politician, the main reason he says he was left out of Tuesday's primary debate.
"I'm not a career politician," Cox said. "What you saw up on that stage were a whole bunch of people who have been in the Washington swamp for a long time. I don't have big-name consultants. I don't have anybody smoothing the way for me. I decided to make this about the issues, ideas and the message. Not who you know, but what you know."
Cox shared his concerns over high government spending, immigration and career politicians and his disgust with President Bush. "I spent $150,000 on advertisements for him in 2000. I supported him. I wanted this candidate to succeed," he said. "I'm very distressed about the way things have gone, and I don't want it to happen again. That's why I'm out doing this."
Stopping by bookstores, clothing shops and hair salons spread throughout town, Cox said he enjoys meeting people. "I like people. I am one of the people," he said. 'I'm not above anybody."
Deb McQuate, of Stratham, who works at Samdperil & Welsh in Exeter, said she was impressed by Cox, mostly by his willingness to get right out into the town and talk with people. "The fact that he is walking around meeting people ... it's so casual," she said. "He's definitely been a businessman, and you can tell he knows what he's doing. I'm up for a change."