It was cold and rainy in Boca Raton, but that couldn’t dampen the spirits of the participants at the Republican Governors Association meeting.In January, Republicans will hold governorships in 31 states, in addition to control of the House and Senate in Washington.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the outgoing chairman of the RGA, said it all on Wednesday.
“Winning is better than losing,” he told a press conference.
In addition to chewing over ideas about the way forward – and there was a shared belief that Republicans have a real responsibility to get things done – the conference was also an opportunity for many of the potential 2016 presidential candidates to finally emerge from the shadow of the midterms.
“We’re praying about it. We’re thinking about it,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told Fox News.
Jindal is one of at least seven Republican governors being talked about as potential candidates for 2016. The others are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rick Perry of Texas, Ohio’s John Kasich, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Indiana's Mike Pence and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker.
No one has yet declared, but on Wednesday RGA chairman Chris Christie said that with the exhausting work of the midterms behind him, it’s time to focus on the future.
“Now I’ve got some decisions to make,” he told reporters.“And I’ll take some time to make those decisions. As soon as I make them, I’m not shy as you know…I’ll let you know.”
Christie has long been a frontrunner in presidential preference polls. He also has some big-money backers behind him. And the goodwill he earned helping to expand Republican control of governors’ mansions will serve him well should he make a decision in the affirmative.
Outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry also has a few chits in the bank after campaigning for Republican candidates in the midterms. Perry has spent the past couple of years studying hard for a presidential run, hoping to overcome his now-infamous "oops" moment at a debate where he blanked on one of the federal departments he would eliminate if he became president. Perry believes voters won’t care about that moment, but what he has done since.
“How do you perform after you fail? I mean – how do you get up? What are you made of?” Perry told Fox News. “They look at that and go - you know what? Guy can make a mistake and come back from it.”
Perry revealed to Fox News that his heart was not in his 2012 run. He didn’t want to do it he said, and only did because he had been talked into it. He also said his recovery from back surgery in 2011 left him in excruciating pain. By the time he pulled out in March, he was exhausted. But he also admitted he didn’t think he needed to work hard for the nomination.
“One of the errors I made in 2011-2012 was, I was a bit arrogant,” Perry told Fox News. “Thinking that I could run for the governorship of Texas three times and for 12 years been the governor - what could be harder than that?”
Perry says he now has the fire to run for president, and that if he chooses to run, he will be ready.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has his own hurdles to overcome. His approval ratings at home have been flagging, and voters on a national level still recall his performance giving the Republican response to President Obama’s first State of the Union address.
Jindal hasn’t made a decision whether to run, but if he does, he is banking that his executive experience and personal story as the son of immigrants who came here to live the American dream will make him a formidable candidate.
“If I were to run in 2016, it would be all about restoring the American dream for our children and grandchildren,” Jindal told Fox News.“For me, this election needs to be about big changes in DC – not incremental changes.”
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is listed by pols as a “dark horse” who has the conservative credentials and potential for big-money backing that could make him very competitive. With his white hair and neatly trimmed suit, he also looks the part – an essential component to Bill Clinton’s principle that in order to win, people “need to be able to see you as president.”
Pence might be thinking about a run, but he isn’t giving anything away at the moment.
“As a small town boy who grew up with a corn field in my backyard, I’m always flattered to be mentioned for the highest office in the land. But my focus is Indiana,” Pence told Fox News.
Of all the potential candidates here in Florida this week, perhaps the most battle-hardened is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He has survived three elections in four years, including a vicious recall. Walker feels he is uniquely positioned to weather the scrutiny of a presidential bid.
“In a way, I’m blessed to have a much different situation than those who might be opening themselves up to the kind of scrutiny that they’ve never experienced before,” Walker told Fox News.
If it sounds a little crazy to think what Walker went through is a "blessing," it fits in well with his belief that you have to be a little bit nuts to want the big job.
“The closer I’ve gotten to the position, the more I realize you do, I think, in a way have to be crazy to want to be president,” Walker told Fox News.