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Christie touts endorsements from fellow governors

HOLLIS, N.H. - As he fielded questions from New Hampshire voters Sunday night - summoning emotional stories about the days after Hurricane Sandy - Gov. Christie turned the floor over to another governor.

HOLLIS, N.H. - As he fielded questions from New Hampshire voters Sunday night - summoning emotional stories about the days after Hurricane Sandy - Gov. Christie turned the floor over to another governor.

"If you've got a tough decision to make, Chris Christie's the right guy. Some people don't realize what a loving, caring guy he is," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told the crowd at the Peterborough town hall.

He then recounted advice Christie gave him during the recent Baltimore riots: "He told me to get up to Baltimore, show some leadership."

During his latest campaign swing through New Hampshire, Christie shared town-hall forums with the two sitting governors who have endorsed him: Hogan, who joined Christie at events Sunday and Monday, and Maine's Paul LePage, who accompanied Christie on Saturday. As head of the Republican Governors Association last year, Christie supported both in their campaigns.

Surrogates, intended to bolster a candidate's appeal, are common on the campaign trail. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who dropped out of the race Monday, held town hall meetings in New Hampshire with Arizona Sen. John McCain. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush campaigned this month with former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

"I don't know how much it really helps a candidate when they surround themselves with other people like that, but it adds more credibility to them," said Fergus Cullen, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman.

Christie's road show had some detractors. "The fact that [LePage] consumed so much of Gov. Christie's time was, to me, almost an intrusion," said David Hammond, 60, of Bedford, after a town-hall meeting Saturday.

When Christie answered a question, so did LePage, holding forth on Guantánamo Bay prisoners - "Do not have them on the mainland: very, very important" - and efforts that Christie commended to overhaul the welfare system in Maine. At various points, he drew applause.

"I found it kind of goofy, to be honest," said Hammond, a manager of software engineers. He favors Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former CEO Carly Fiorina.

Christie and LePage have some ideological differences; unlike Christie, LePage, who is more aligned with tea-party elements, rejected Medicaid expansion related to the Affordable Care Act.

LePage has made news for provocative comments, such as comparing the IRS to the Gestapo and accusing Democratic lawmaker of trying to "give it to the people without providing Vaseline."

But at the start of Saturday's meeting, Christie praised LePage as a "strong" and "bold leader from Maine."

"I tell you one thing people have never said about me or about Paul LePage. They never said I'm misunderstood," Christie said.

With Hogan by his side the next day, Christie tried to reinforce his message that his experience as governor of New Jersey - a Republican in a blue state - sets him apart from the field.

Promoting his leadership credentials, Christie told the crowd in Peterborough that "Larry and I have learned over time . . . events intervene." Unlike "what senators are used to, the orderly way of doing things," for governors, when "a riot happens, whatever your priority was, that day is gone."

Hogan credited Christie with the victories notched last year by Republican governors, including his surprise victory in Maryland.

The two men also described a personal relationship, with Hogan telling the crowd that Christie was the first person to call him after Hogan announced he had been found to have cancer and had stayed in touch to offer support, including a text message on the day Christie announced his presidential campaign.

Christie told voters he wanted them to hear from Hogan, because Christie, as president, would seek Hogan's advice: "It's important for you to know who's advising me."

Sue Martin, however, wanted to hear more details about Christie's ideas. Though he and Hogan spent two hours at the Sunday meeting, "I don't feel like I got a lot of depth," Martin said, in part because Christie "takes so long." With shorter responses, she said, the meeting would have covered more ground.

Martin, an independent from Peterborough, had been interested to hear how Christie would work with lawmakers to enact policy. While Christie often promotes that angle in detail - describing the pension overhaul he worked with Democrats to enact during his first term - his focus Sunday on his governing experience was broader.

Martin said Hogan did not affect her impression of Christie, but some voters saw the other governor's presence as an asset.

"It makes a statement. Strong governors can make a very big difference in the lives of everyday people," said Denis Cronin, 62, of Bedford, a Christie supporter who attended an event Monday morning at the Hollis Pharmacy.

Endorsements traditionally have been a better predictor of electoral success than money or standing in the polls, though they often precede other gains, said Marty Cohen, an associate professor of political science at James Madison University in Virginia, who has studied the effect of endorsements.

"What's different about this year, at least on the Republican side, it doesn't seem like the party has really settled on someone," he said.

In an analysis by the political website FiveThirtyEight tallying and weighting endorsements by U.S. senators, U.S. representatives, and governors, Bush leads the field.

Christie is third - and has endorsements from two of the four Republican governors to have backed a candidate so far. The analysis does not take into account endorsements from local officials, or nonelected leaders and interest groups.

Governors "are potentially very important" endorsements, given their visibility and political operations within their states, Cohen said. But he said counterintuitive endorsements - for Christie, getting support from a red-state governor - could be more valuable.

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