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Scott Walker brought his everyman pitch to New Hampshire this weekend, branding himself as the Kohl’s-wearing, Harley-riding governor.
The Wisconsin Republican’s penchant for the discount clothing company – headquartered in his home state – first got attention when he spoke before an Iowa audience three months ago, and he’s still charming audiences and getting big laughs for his unabashed enthusiasm about the department store.
When he visited New Hampshire in March, he wore a sweater that he said he paid one dollar for at Kohl’s. But Saturday night, while headlining a dinner at the New Hampshire GOP First in the Nation Summit, Walker said he got a little more dressed up.
“I wore a suit tonight,” he said, opening up his jacket to show the label. “The shirt is from Kohl’s. The suit is from Jos. A Bank.”
Walker isn’t the only 2016 Republican who’s pouncing on the authenticity factor. With Mitt Romney having faced constant attacks in 2012 for appearing out of touch – and now Hillary Clinton battling a similar narrative – Republicans are stumbling over each other trying to prove who’s the most down-to-Earth candidate.
That competition was on display this week when the candidates ventured out into New Hampshire for some retail politicking. Chris Christie held a town hall at a dive bar Friday night in Exeter, where voters listened with Solo cups in their hands as the New Jersey governor promised they’d always feel like they knew him.
While Jeb Bush was eating blueberry pie Thursday night in Concord, he told a roomful of voters and reporters that when he goes to Chipotle, he drives his “own car,” making a not-so-veiled swipe at Clinton.
Mike Huckabee let a small throng of reporters and cameras follow him around as he looked at guns and fired off a few rounds in target practice at an indoor gun range in Hudson. When he makes his likely presidential run, he’ll preach a message that blue-collar, working class people “ought to be the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” he said.
And Marco Rubio toured a welding training facility at Manchester Community College, calling to de-stigmatize blue collar jobs.
While Walker rocketed to national fame during his battle with public unions during his first term, he’s now getting to introduce a less controversial side of himself and develop a narrative that will take root in states like New Hampshire, where voters take seriously their role of getting to know the presidential candidates.
After going to church Sunday, Walker told a small gathering of Republicans in Derry, New Hampshire, that he’s eager to get his Harley out to the state and ride around. Later, when the booming sound of a motorcycle filtered though the window, he stopped.
“That’s the sound of a Harley,” he said, exciting the audience.
Walker’s use of Kohl’s has not only proven to be a crowd favorite but also an efficient illustration of three messages. First, it helps show he’s frugal. He touts his ability to use so many coupons and Kohl’s Cash that by the end of the transaction, “They’re basically paying me to buy the shirt.”
Second, it lets him talk tax policy. In the way that Kohl’s lowers the prices on items and expands the volume to drive up profits, he’d like to lower the tax rate and expand the number of people who pay taxes, he says. It’s already a concept called the “Laffer Curve,” but Walker says he’s renamed it the “Kohl’s Curve.”
Third, he’s found a way to also work in a swipe against Clinton.
“I doubt the presumptive nominee for the other party has ever been to Kohl’s,” he said Saturday night.
It’s part of a strategy that aims to emphasize that he didn’t “inherent fame and fortune,” as he frequently says, using a line that also draws a contrast with Bush, whether intentional or not.
The Kohl’s schtick has also developed a fourth virtue: Giving him a safe and reliable laugh line, even if cheesy at times. As the governor wrapped up his remarks Sunday at the event in Derry, he was presented with a gift bag from the host.
“Is it from Kohl’s?” Walker asked, as the audience roared.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said his decision to run for the Republican nomination will be based on two things: his family and whether he can lift America's spirit. His father and brother are former Presidents.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has created a political committee that will help him travel and raise money while he considers a 2016 bid. Additionally, billionaire businessman David Koch said in a private gathering in Manhattan this month that he wants Walker to be the next president, but he doesn't plan to back anyone in the primaries.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is establishing a committee to formally explore a White House bid. "If I run, my candidacy will be based on the idea that the American people are ready to try a dramatically different direction," he said in a news release provided to CNN on Monday, May 18.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, has said the United States needs a "political revolution" of working-class Americans looking to take back control of the government from billionaires. He first announced the run in an email to supporters early on the morning of Thursday, April 30.
On March 2, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson announced the launch of an exploratory committee. The move will allow him to raise money that could eventually be transferred to an official presidential campaign and indicates he is on track with stated plans to formally announce a bid in May.
Hillary Clinton launched her presidential bid Sunday, April 12, through a video message on social media. She continues to be considered the overwhelming front-runner among possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidates.
Sen. Marco Rubio announced his bid for the 2016 presidency on Monday, April 13, a day after Hillary Clinton, with a rally in Florida. He's a Republican rising star from Florida who swept into office in 2010 on the back of tea party fervor. But his support of comprehensive immigration reform, which passed the Senate but has stalled in the House, has led some in his party to sour on his prospects.
Lincoln Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat former governor and senator of Rhode Island, said he's running for president on Thursday, April 16, as a Democrat, but his spokeswoman said the campaign is still in the presidential exploratory committee stages.
Vice President Joe Biden has twice before made unsuccessful bids for the Oval Office -- in 1988 and 2008. A former senator known for his foreign policy and national security expertise, Biden made the rounds on the morning shows recently and said he thinks he'd "make a good President."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has started a series of town halls in New Hampshire to test the presidential waters, becoming more comfortable talking about national issues and staking out positions on hot topic debates.
Sen. Rand Paul officially announced his presidential bid on Tuesday, April 7, at a rally in Louisville, Kentucky. The tea party favorite probably will have to address previous controversies that include comments on civil rights, a plagiarism allegation and his assertion that the top NSA official lied to Congress about surveillance.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced his 2016 presidential bid on Monday, March 23, in a speech at Liberty University. The first-term Republican and tea party darling is considered a gifted orator and smart politician. He is best known in the Senate for his marathon filibuster over defunding Obamacare.
Democrat Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, released a "buzzy" political video in November 2013 in tandem with visits to New Hampshire. He also headlined a Democratic Party event in South Carolina, which holds the first Southern primary.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a social conservative, gave Mitt Romney his toughest challenge in the nomination fight last time out and has made trips recently to early voting states, including Iowa and South Carolina.