As Governors Eye The White House, Home Takes A Back Seat : It's All Politics Governing is messy, but slumping approval ratings for hopefuls like Scott Walker and Chris Christie likely won't have much impact on the presidential contest.
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As Governors Eye The White House, Home Takes A Back Seat

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As Governors Eye The White House, Home Takes A Back Seat

As Governors Eye The White House, Home Takes A Back Seat

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Before the 2000 election, many Republican governors banded together behind a presidential candidate who was one of their own. He was Texas governor George W. Bush.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

As the 2016 election approaches, many Republican governors are lining up for a chance. They include Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

INSKEEP: And Chris Christie of New Jersey.

GREENE: Not to mention Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

INSKEEP: They all share several qualities, like executive experience.

GREENE: A national reputation.

INSKEEP: And slumping poll numbers back home. Here's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: They've been working to make themselves familiar and friendly faces to the party faithful in early voting states, including at a big event hosted this past week by the New Hampshire GOP.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Let's give a warm first-in-the-nation welcome to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

(APPLAUSE)

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL: Thank y'all very, very much.

GONYEA: Jindal is the sitting governor of Louisiana. Also there was Wisconsin's Scott Walker, greeting the audience in Nashua with some regular-guy, Midwestern small talk.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER: We're honored to be back here, New Hampshire. I wore a suit tonight. I didn't wear the $1 sweater like I did the last time, from Kohl's.

GONYEA: Kohl's, of course, is a reference to the Wisconsin-based department store. And there's New Jersey's Chris Christie, who mentioned a text he'd just gotten from his 14-year-old son.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: He's at school, and he said to me, where are you? And I said, I'm on my way to New Hampshire. And he's a bit of a wise guy - I don't know where that comes from...

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: ...He said your new home state.

GONYEA: It's all part of the getting-to-know-you phase of an early presidential campaign. And for a sitting governor, it's time to tell the world, and those voters in places like New Hampshire and Iowa, just what you've accomplished back home. Here's more from Scott Walker.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WALKER: We took a $3.6 billion budget deficit and turned it into a surplus. In fact, we've done it in each of the last four years.

GONYEA: But as these governors eye the White House, each is also dealing with low public approval at home. Take Walker - he's long been a polarizing figure due to his epic battles with public employee unions. But a new poll this week shows a sizable drop in his approval rating. Charles Franklin of Marquette University notes that Walker has shifted his rhetoric to the right on issues including immigration and abortion. That has likely fueled some of the decline. And, Franklin says, being out of the state so much doesn't help.

CHARLES FRANKLIN: He has had a style in which he governs by traveling around the state and presenting his case, three, four, five events a day around the state arguing for his positions. Now he isn't able to do as many of those.

GONYEA: Chris Christie's popularity in New Jersey reached an all-time low this week. There was the so-called Bridgegate scandal early last year. But more recently, there's deep discontent over his handling of the economy and changes to retirement benefits for state workers. Bobby Jindal's approval rating is very low as well, including his handling of the budget and education, among other things. But political strategists like Rich Galen say that falling support at home, as long as it doesn't become a huge story on a hot-button issue nationally, is not likely to have much impact on the presidential contest.

RICH GALEN: As long as the dip is manageable, as long as the candidate doesn't feel that he or she has to race home and fix it, then it's something you just sort of let slide by and hope for the best as you move down the field.

GONYEA: Now, there are other current governors who could still jump into the presidential race, like, say, Ohio's John Kasich, whose ratings have held up pretty well so far. But for others, they wear their low approval ratings like a badge of honor, a sign of toughness. As Chris Christie put it last weekend, he's not looking to be elected prom king. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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