11/16/2013 04:47 pm ET

Governors Set Their Sights On Early 2016 States



MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Governors get things done.

That's the message from state leaders who are considering a White House run as Washington slips deeper into political paralysis.

Ambitious governors long have cast their accomplishments in contrast to the capital's gridlock. But three years from the 2016 election, several governors are trying to grab more of the national spotlight, while Congress earns all-time low approval ratings.

In events Saturday evening in two important early voting states, Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-Md., was trying to highlight that contrast and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was trying to fight it.

In the emerging 2016 field, governors with little national recognition are competing with better-known Capitol Hill figures burdened by the baggage of working in Washington.

Courting voters in New Hampshire, home of the leadoff primary, O'Malley planned to promote himself at a party dinner as "an executive that actually has to get something done and lives in a reality-based world, as opposed to the ideology and the make believe that too many of our members of our Congress are living in."

"I know that's what people across the country want," O'Malley, a former Baltimore mayor who's in his second term as governor, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "They want leaders that will get things done."

At about the same time Saturday, Ryan, the 2012 Republican nominee for vice president, was set to be in Iowa headlining a fundraiser for GOP Gov. Terry Branstad.

"We need a governor as president of the United States," Branstad recently told the AP.

Branstad has praised Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, as "the one guy in Washington who does have a thoughtful plan."

But Branstad points to only his fellow Republican governors as examples the nation should follow. Branstad, if re-elected, would have a closer look at the GOP field than anyone, as his party's host of the Iowa presidential caucuses.

Last month, days after the partial government shutdown ended in Washington, Branstad introduced U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as "a bright up and coming senator" before launching into an indictment of the federal government and promoting the accomplishments of governors in Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan. In each of the states, Republicans also control the legislature.

Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., scored a resounding re-election victory this month by promoting his success as a can-do governor.

"Under this government, our first job is to get the job done. And as long as I am governor, that job will always, always be finished," Christie said during his victory speech.

Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., offered a similar message in a speech to state leaders in Washington. "Real reform happens in the states," Walker said, according to prepared remarks from the closed-door speech.

Ryan has his own challenges as an eight-term congressman.

Gallup found this past week that just 9 percent of Americans approve of Congress' job performance, a record-low. The Pew Research Center found in October that just 1 in 5 surveyed said they trust the government in Washington to do what is right most of the time, while 8 in 10 said they only sometimes or never trust it, reflecting near record levels of distrust.

Back in New Hampshire, the Democratic Party chairman noted that presidential primary voters on both sides "have an inclination to support governors" over members of Congress.

"Being a governor of a midsized state is not a bad place to start when it comes to New Hampshire," Ray Buckley he said of O'Malley.

Aides to O'Malley suggest that he would not seek the Democratic nomination if Hillary Rodham Clinton were to enter the race. But his status as a Washington outsider offers O'Malley a unique argument in a Democratic field whose strongest prospective contenders are capital insiders — Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., hasn't ruled out running. Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich., has tried to raise his national profile as leader in a state where unemployment has dropped more than 6 percentage points since he took office in 2011.

Four of the last six presidents have been governors.


AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.



United States Governors