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After Successful Election, Republican Governors Look Ahead To 2016


With the 2014 elections behind us, some are already looking ahead to 2016. A number of the potential presidential candidates are in Boca Raton, Florida, today and tomorrow for the annual Republican Governors' Association conference. Outgoing Texas Governor Rick Perry is there. So is the current chairman of the Governors' Association, Chris Christie of New Jersey. Christie was able to take a victory lap. Republicans had a very good election season.

NPR's Greg Allen joins us from Boca Raton. And, Greg, let's start with the news today - that President Obama will be announcing executive action on immigration tomorrow. Governor Christie was asked about that. What did he have to say?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, Chris Christie tried to defer having any reaction at all. He said he'd like to wait and see what the president has to about it before he goes ahead and gives his reaction. Mike Pence is also a governor from Indiana who's here on the panel with Chris Christie today. He was not so reticent. He said it right from the start. He said that President Obama should not do any kind of executive action on immigration.

Chris Christie, though, was pressed on this issue as it went forward, especially because, you know, he's likely to be a presidential candidate. And he was asked about why shouldn't the president take action here because Republicans have been so reluctant to take any action on immigration up until now. He took some issue with that and here's what he had to say.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: He promised in 2008 that this would be the top of his agenda. He had the Congress in his complete veto-proof control - in the Senate at least - for the first couple of years of his presidency, and he did nothing about this except, you know, blow hot air.

BLOCK: Greg, as we mentioned, this has been a good year for Republican governors. How much credit are people giving Chris Christie and the Republican Governors' Association for the midterm success?

ALLEN: Well, we heard from every governor so far today that Chris Christie is all but a saint. We heard from the newly elected governor from Illinois - Governor Rauner - the newly elected governor from Maryland - Governor Hogan - both said if it wasn't for Chris Christie they wouldn't be here today. Every governor has said that he's the guy who did it. The Republican Governors' Association spent some $130 million on the midterm election and Chris Christie himself went to all of these states - Maryland, Massachusetts, he was in Florida several times.

We heard from all of these governors that he was the man who made it happen. Now, whether it was just Chris Christie, whether it was the money, whether it was the election wave, it might not matter, but at least for today, he's really claiming victory and everyone's willing to give it to him.

BLOCK: And, Greg, there in Boca Raton, there is no shortage of Republican governors who would have designs on the presidency, are considering or considered likely to run in 2016.

ALLEN: Right, that's true. This place is just positively crawling with presidential contenders everywhere you look. Of course, there's Rick Perry from Texas. He's the outgoing governor who's ran before. He's considering a run. We have, of course, New Jersey's Chris Christie.

Another potential candidate is Scott Walker from Wisconsin. He's a Republican who basically won three elections in the last four years. He won two elections and a recall in a state that's not known to be friendly to Republicans. You have John Kasich from Ohio - a Republican from an important swing state. And also two candidates from conservative states - we have Indiana's Mike Pence and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal - all thinking about running for president.

BLOCK: Is there a consistent message you're hearing there from Republican governors on thinking forward to 2016 and what the Republican Party stands for?

ALLEN: Well, you know, ever since the election, they've all been on this one message, which is that governors - Republican governors - have the answer. They talk a lot about the dysfunction in Washington and they don't just talk about the White House when they talk about dysfunction. They also point fingers at Congress, and they say - the governor's here today - Mike Pence was one who said that you have to look to the state's capitals, to states like Indiana and New Jersey and Florida. These are the places they say that are the laboratories of capitalism and of a way to make this country work better.

So their message is that governors are the way to look - the place to look - for leadership. And someone - at one point, someone asked the governors about whether governors make better presidents than members of Congress and they got a resounding yes. It's governors who should be the face of the party. It's governors who should be running the country, even in the next presidential election.

BLOCK: No surprise, since you are there at the Republican Governors' Association conference. NPR's Greg Allen, thanks so much.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
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