- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 7, 2016

DOVER, N.H. — With the clock ticking down on the New Hampshire presidential primary, the Republican governors in the race are pulling out all the stops in hopes of delivering the sort of performance Tuesday that could help convince voters that they could be forces to be reckoned with moving forward.

In recent days, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush deployed his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich marched out former New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel (an Ohio State graduate) to help celebrate his 100th town hall event, as well as former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, meanwhile, issued a stark warning: New Hampshire’s chances of hanging on to its first-in-the-nation status could be in jeopardy if voters reward candidates who haven’t logged much time in the state.

The stakes are high for Mr. Bush, Mr. Kasich and Mr. Christie.

Each of the three has pinned his hopes on the state, which has traditionally been fertile ground for governors and moderate candidates — though this race has been unlike others thanks to the rise of businessman Donald Trump, who has owned the headlines and made it hard for them to gain much traction.

“He has taken all the oxygen out of the room,” said Peter Allen, co-owner of a family-style restaurant. He said last week that he was leaning toward Mr. Kasich, but also liked Mr. Christie.

Guy Carpano, of Dover, said he was torn among the governors and likened Mr. Trump’s impact on the race to “a bully in the schoolyard.”

“The bully will silence the others, and that is exactly what he has done,” said Mr. Carpano, 74.

Indeed, the Real Clear Politics average of polls shows that Mr. Trump, who has favored large rallies over the meet-and-greets and smaller town hall meetings, which voters here expect, has more support — 31.1 percent — than Mr. Kasich (12 percent), Mr. Bush (9.7 percent) and Mr. Christie (5 percent) have, combined.

“The reason that no one has caught traction is they are sharing common denominator of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire and they are splitting up that vote,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has spent 27 days in the state since Jan. 1, 2015, compared with 52 for Mr. Bush, 70 for Mr. Kasich and 72 for Mr. Christie, according to a tally from WMUR, the local ABC affiliate in New Hampshire.

The governors also are battling Sen. Marco Rubio, who has surged in the polls since his third-place showing in Iowa.

But Mr. Rubio, who has spent 28 days in New Hampshire, came out on the losing end of some memorable exchanges with Mr. Christie in Saturday’s debate, which could impact his standing.

Whatever the case, voters looking for executive experience say they have been frustrated that the governors have been overshadowed in the race.

“The rest of them have a lot of hot air, but I don’t think they have the experience behind it,” Mr. Carpano said. “I don’t think they make the hard decisions.”

He said it seems as though the governors are struggling because they are “selling the steak and not the sizzle.”

“And the others are all sizzle because they don’t have the steak,” Mr. Carpano said. “Unfortunately, I think the herd is going in the wrong direction.”

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