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GOP Governors Bank On New Hampshire To Jump Start Struggling Campaigns


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

GONYEA: Or this...


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.


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.


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


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.

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