Tahlequah Daily Press

August 21, 2013

Locals discuss GOP presidential picks

The first in a two-part series reveals New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is favored by many.

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — tsnell@tahlequahdailypress.com

President Barack Obama may only be in the first year of his second term, but Republicans are already vying to unseat the Democrats in 2016.

National polls indicate there are five contenders for the GOP slot: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

A Rassmussen poll released this month shows Christie, who is still running for re-election in his home state, as the clear front-runner for the nomination, with 21 percent support. He is followed closely by Rubio, who has 18 percent, and Bush with 16 percent. Paul and Ryan have garnered 15 and 13 percent of the vote in the poll respectively.

Shannon Grimes, chairman of the Cherokee County Republican Party, believes it’s still too early to begin predicting who will land the nomination.

“I think we may often do ourselves wrong when we start playing along with the political machine-driven ‘contenders’ who are presented to us each season, especially [when the election is] over two years’ out,” said Grimes. “Part of why we keep getting the same old politics in D.C. is that we keep letting the same old political interests push forward with pre-approved contenders the [party bosses] are OK with us choosing.”

Grimes said sticking with the status quo only aids those with special interests.

“Sadly, in that game, there usually doesn’t end up being much real difference in policies and the only real winners are going to be those interests that chose the menu of candidates to present us,” said Grimes.

Grimes believes to affect real change, people have to focus on the present.

“I also think starting so early distracts people from the work that can be done now,” he said. “Instead, we start looking down the road to the next great one who will save us instead of doing the work that can be done now. “There is a lot of work that can be done now.”

Christie favored among         local Republicans

In its Saturday Facebook forum, the Daily Press asked its friends who they would choose if voting Republican in 2016. As in national polling, Christie emerged as the candidate to watch.

Christie is well-known for his straightforward, no-nonsense approach to politics and governing, a trait some locals seem to admire.

“If I were to vote Republican, it would be for Christie,” said NSU employee Olga Hoenes. “He lets you know how he feels and where he stands. Right or wrong, you know what he believes. The others are too sneaky.”

Republican John Sisemore, who was area manager for Southwestern Bell when he lived in Tahlequah a number of years ago, is considering both Christie and Rubio, but joked about Paul’s potential candidacy.

“Right now, it’s a toss-up between Christie and Rubio, assuming there are no other reasonable candidates, and I’m starting a petition to have Rand Paul put on the ballot in Venezuela,” he said.

John Morgan, Cherokee Nation Industries employee, doesn’t think the GOP can pull ahead of would-be candidate and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Any of the above choices would be great for the late-night comics,” said Morgan. “Any would be a great choice for Hillary to demolish in any debate.”

Area resident Jim O’Rourke thinks Christie has bipartisan appeal.

“[Christie] seems like he might be the most likely to get a little Democrat support, as well,” said O’Rourke. “Recent overtures to Obama seem to have rankled some on the self-righteous right – which, to me, is a further demonstration he might be at least a little more interested in doing the right thing and not following party lines.”

O’Rourke, who considers himself a moderate  Republican, believes the party will back Rubio.

“My money, though, is [on] Rubio,” said O’Rourke. “Republicans are desperate to siphon off Hispanic vote at all costs. Not saying I would not support him, but I admit I do not know much about him at this point.”

What you said

The Daily Press polled its online readers, asking who they like right now as the front-runner on the Republican ticket for president in 2016? Choices included, New Jersey Gov. Christ Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

Of 150 respondents, 34 percent, or 51 voters, indicated they would vote for none of the five. Twenty-five percent, or 37 voters, said they would choose Christie. Sixteen percent, or 24 respondents, said they would cast their ballot for Paul; 13 percent, or 19 voters, preferred Bush; 7 percent, or 11 respondents, like Ryan, and 5 percent, 8 voters, chose Rubio.