PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire — When the votes for the Iowa caucuses were tallied, the only three governors remaining in the once-crowded Republican presidential field received a collective 6% of the vote — when you round up.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) both failed to break the 2% mark, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) earned about 2.8%.
The trio has seemed eager to move on — and for good reason.
Though real-estate mogul Donald Trump appears poised to win in the New Hampshire primaries, the governors have relished New Hampshire’s more moderate, less evangelical electorate. The Granite State’s makeup favours Bush, Christie, and Kasich in what could be their final opportunity to gain a leg back up into the top-tier of the GOP field.
Bush told voters to “reset this race.” Christie barnstormed with financial-industry titan Nick Loeb, a scion of the financial industry titan Loeb family. Kasich appeared ready for a burst of momentum.
In recent weeks, Bush’s crowd sizes have appeared larger, something the campaign attributes to uncertain voters finally taking a serious look at the candidates.
At a Monday town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, several attendees expressed that sentiment in interviews with Business Insider.
“I originally was [supporting] Jeb at the beginning, but as all the candidates came out, I kind of wavered, and switched, and moved around,” said Gale Richard, one attendee. “Even I think it’s interesting that the day before, I’m back towards Jeb.”
A voter named Diane, who did not give her last name, added: “I think he’s better” than the other candidates.
Publicly, Bush’s team is riding high. They say a strong performance in Saturday’s Republican debate could help win over Granite State supporters at exactly the right time.
“He walked into the room, and I had victorious hands in the air, so he knew that we were feeling good,” Tim Miller, the Bush campaign’s communications director, told Business Insider on Monday, recalling how the candidate felt after Sunday’s debate.
It has carried over throughout the past two days. At the town-hall event, Bush urged voters to “reset this race tomorrow.”
“You have that power,” Bush said.
Bush’s opener was former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who re-emphasised that theme.
“It’s not Iowa who is going to decide who the Republican nominee,” Weatherford said. “It’s New Hampshire that’s going to decide who’s the Republican nominee.”
Bush wasn’t the only candidate enjoying New Hampshire’s friendlier turf.
At a town-hall event Monday, Kasich’s crowd swelled beyond the venue’s capacity. It spilled over into the outside room where some supporters and media staff resorted to watching the C-SPAN live feed of the governor’s speech only feet away.
Recent polls of the Granite State continue to show what Bush called labelled a “jump-ball” for second, third, and fourth place in the state.
Though Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) appears to have gained several points in most New Hampshire surveys conducted since his surprisingly strong third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, some tracking polls released Monday appeared to show a slight dip after Rubio’s roundly criticised debate performance.
But just as Bush, Kasich, and Christie have appeared to relish the opportunity to break back into the top tier, other candidates have appeared ready for another shift in the electoral map.
The scene at Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) Monday town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, was more subdued than his Iowa barn burners.
The front of the room was packed. Yet much of the crowd was made up of reporters and photographers, while Cruz couldn’t keep the attention of some patrons at the bar who talked loudly. Others took selfies with local performance artist Vermin Supreme, who showed up midway through the event.
“It’s a bunch of drunk Democrats,” one woman remarked, glancing over her shoulder at the bar.
But while Cruz mischievously inflated Rubio’s expectations at his event, Cruz himself may have telegraphed some excitement about the nominating states that come next.
“New Hampshire, in 24 hours the primary will be over,” Cruz said, grinning. “Suddenly, this quadrennial pestilence that descends upon this state will migrate south.”
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