GOP Governors Bank On New Hampshire To Jump Start Struggling Campaigns

Feb 8, 2016
Originally published on February 9, 2016 1:31 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For a presidential hopeful, having governor on a resume has typically been a golden credential, especially governor of a big battleground state. It's a combination of executive experience and outside-the-beltway credibility. Yet, this year, three such governors are struggling to break out in tomorrow's primary. Here's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: In any other year, they might have been the cream of the crop - big names - governors like John Kasich of Ohio, reelected in a landslide in a state that's on the must-win list for any GOP nominee. In Concord yesterday, he offered a proud checklist.

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JOHN KASICH: Not just balanced budget, surpluses and pensions that are secure and the creation of 400,000 new private-sector jobs. We're rocking and rolling, and we want to do it in America.

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GONYEA: Meanwhile, in Salem, Jeb Bush revisited his tenure in Florida. He pointed to his own budget surpluses and then pretended to roll up his sleeve to show the battle scars he earned.

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JEB BUSH: There's a - can you see it, this scar right there? I got a couple - the teachers union here, the trial bar here, the public union right here.

GONYEA: Then there's New Jersey's Chris Christie in Hampton listing the life-and-death challenges that have landed on his desk.

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CHRIS CHRISTIE: Someone is coming in to your airport who you think may have Ebola.

GONYEA: Or this...

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CHRISTIE: The second-most significant natural disaster in our country's history is going to come on shore in your state.

GONYEA: Such experience might've been just what GOP voters wanted in the past - not this year, at least not yet. Bush, Christie and Kasich are also dividing up the portion of the vote that could make any one of them a solid contender. Another big problem is the emergence of Senator Rubio, who many GOP voters see as a new face who can win. Still, a stronger-than-expected showing in New Hampshire could give any of these governors the momentum to keep going. That's why Christie launched a blistering attack on Rubio in Saturday's debate, and he's still doing it, pointing out everywhere that President Obama, like Rubio, was also once a first-term senator seeking the White House.

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CHRISTIE: Fact is, I like Senator Rubio. He's a good man, and he's a good American. He's just not ready, and we can't afford to do this again. We cannot afford to do this.

GONYEA: Meanwhile, each of these governors sometimes show frustration at being labeled establishment figures rather than proven experienced problem solvers. One woman at a town hall asked Jeb Bush why young voters should get excited about the possibility of a third President Bush.

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BUSH: I don't know. The Bush thing - people are just going to have to get over it, all right? It's...

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BUSH: It's - I just - I am who I am. It's - I'm in the establishment.

GONYEA: He then shrugs his shoulders, takes another question and keeps talking about his experience as a governor, something he hopes enough voters still believe is a good thing. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Manchester. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.