GOP 2016 hopefuls get familiar with Iowa, New Hampshire voters

Leading contenders for the presidency in 2016 have already made or scheduled 30 trips to the early nominating states, according to an analysis by The Hill.
 
The majority of the traveling is happening on the Republican side, where Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.) and others have scheduled at least 25 trips to early voting states since the 2012 election, according to news reports. Democrats have scheduled only five.
 

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The disparity likely reflects a key difference between parties: While Democrats have a formidable front-runner in Hillary Clinton, should she choose to run, the Republican field is wide open.
 
“The Democrats occupy the White House, so they are not going to be coming here as early, spreading their own individual message,” Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker said. “Likely they are going to be somewhat in conflict with the president’s policies.”
 
Among Republicans seen as possible 2016 candidates, Paul leads the way with at least six trips scheduled to early voting states, while Cruz ranks second with five, news reports show.
 
Paul, Cruz and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) are the only potential 2016 candidates this year to schedule events in all three of the first nominating states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

"Unlike the Democrats, there is no clear front ground runner on the Republican side, and the candidates are trying to elevate their name recognition in these states," said Thomas Whalen, a professor at Boston University.
 
The most active traveler among Democrats is Vice President Biden, who will be headlining an out-of-state fundraiser for New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) later this month.
 
Biden also visited Iowa before Obama’s inauguration in January and South Carolina in May.
 
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has visited South Carolina this year. He traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire during the 2012 election.
 
Clinton, meanwhile, has yet to make any political appearances since leaving President Obama’s Cabinet earlier this year.
 
Visits to the early nominating states are necessary for politicians as they gauge support for a presidential run and curry favor with the kingmakers in their party. It’s also a chance to get a leg up on the substantial fundraising that will be needed to have a shot in 2016.
 
Spiker said Republican visits to the state might come a bit more frequently than last cycle but will be nothing all that uncommon.
 
“It may be a bit more,” Spiker said. “But I remember back in 2009, people were saying, 'Oh this is the most people that have come by this early ever.' It is kind of the same narrative we experience in '09.”
 
While Paul and Cruz are keeping a steady travel itinerary, some of the top talents on the Republican side haven’t visited a key presidential state since last year.
 
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) took trips to Iowa and New Hampshire during the 2012 election, and visited with mega-donor Sheldon Adelson last week. But he’s mostly kept close to home as he runs for reelection as governor.
 
Two other GOP stars — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — have only scheduled or attended one event each in Iowa since the election.
 
Rubio was first out of the gate in the 2016 field, delivering a speech at Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s (R) birthday party just two weeks after President Obama’s reelection.
 
Ryan, who ran on the ticket with Romney in 2012, is scheduled to attend Branstad’s birthday bash this year.
 
The five-week congressional recess this month is giving some of the 2016 hopefuls a chance to gauge their support.
 
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), who recently said he is not ruling out a presidential run, is using the first week of the August recess to stump in New Hampshire, which hosts the first-in-the-nation primary. He has two more trips scheduled to the state.
 
Cruz, meanwhile, will speak at a Family Leadership summit in Ames, Iowa, over the weekend and is slated to headline the Reagan Day Dinner in the state in October.
 
And a trio of Republican governors will attend a fundraiser later his month in South Carolina for Gov. Nikki Haley (R).
 
Even Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is seen as a long-shot presidential candidate, is set to test the waters this month with a trip to Iowa, which neighbors her home state.

This story was posted 5 a.m. and updated at 12:01 p.m.

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