"Hey look me over," the brass band played, and its message was directed as much to the nation as to the score of snow-soaked New Hampshire campaign workers who greeted George Bush here today.
Grinning over his Iowa victory and expressing cautious optimism for the New Hampshire primary next month, Bush reminded the crowd of international media representatives that suddenly materialized, "I started off as an asterisk in the polls."
now, he predicted, if he does well in New Hampshire, "there will be absolutely no stopping me."
While Bush could still become an asterisk in the history books, for the moment he is basking delightedly in all the attention.
Bush's most fervent pitch to fellow Republicans is his experience: businessman, congressman, Republican Party chairman, ambassador to the United Nations, ambassador to Peking, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Despite such a string of public offices, the 55-year-old Texan has, until now, had little name recognition. He has been running for president for more than a year, but hardly anyone paid heed.
The George Herbert Walker Bush that came across to Iowans in this campaign is a man not easily classifiable."I won't let you label me," he tells the press and so far, he has kept them off guard in their attempts to pigeonhole him.
He is a conservative perceived as a moderate.
He is the scion of a wealthy New England family, son of a distinquished U.S. senator from Connecticut. Yet he is a self-made man, having moved to Texas after World War II to make his fortune in the oil drilling business.
He is a man of relaxed cheer and gentle manners who refrains from attacking his Republican rivals. At the same time, he affects a fierce speaking style and tries to project an image of tough hawkishness.
Bush seems candid with the press -- in contrast to Ronald Reagan's distant wariness or Bob Dole's suspicious hostility.
Asked Monday morning how he would feel if he came in third in Iowa, he told a press conference, "I'll make it sound like a victory, but you won't let me get away with it."
And to a reporter who commented on his warm reception in Cedar Rapids, he joked, "See, I was never as boring as you thought I was."
A graduate of Andover and Yale University, two of the nation's most exclusive schools, Bush has been accused by some conservatives of being the candidate of the Eastern establishment. "The clean fingernail Republican," he was labeled by Manchester Union Leader publisher William Leob, a Reagan fan.
Though unflaggingly friendly, Bush is no firebrand campaigner. Crowds are warm, but the emotional fervor of Reaganites is lacking.
With the slightest encouragement, Bush will launch into an enthusiastic discussion of the Eurodollar or set an audience to fidgeting with a long-winded mini-lecture on foreign policy.
Bush acknowledges his limitations. "It's not me and my great magnetism," he said, attributing one crowded rally to the organizing talent of his campaign workers.
He tells his audiences, "I have led -- maybe not as flamboyantly as some others, but leadership is respect. It's not just going out and bullying someone, leadership is experience."
Bush's favorite issue in his understated campaign to overtake Reagan is his own physical vigor. He brings it up frequently to draw attention to Reagan's age, which is 68.
In a press conference Monday Bush brought up the fact that he had run 3.8 miles the day before.