It’s been a bad year for governors in presidential politics.
And they took a beating in Iowa. Taken together, the votes received by the four current or former governors in Monday night’s caucuses would equal the fourth place finish of former pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
“The four governors getting less votes than Ben Carson is almost unfathomable," David Carney, a long-time political operative in New Hampshire and former political director for President H.W. Bush, said. “It shows you the depth of the anti-establishment sentiment of our primary participants."
The result is that three governors limp on to New Hampshire and one – former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee - dropped out of the race.
This election cycle has not been nice to state executives. Including Huckabee, five either current or former governors - Texas’ Rick Perry, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and New York’s George Pataki - have dropped out on the Republican side (and two on the Democratic side).
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie insisted that his two percent support in the Iowa caucuses was expected.
“I got asked this morning by someone, how do I feel about Iowa and I said, well heck, I did exactly what I thought I would do,” Christie told said in Bedford New Hampshire Tuesday morning.
Christie argues that he didn’t play in Iowa, but he didn’t completely ignore it. He had staff and volunteers in the state and spent five days there in January. He also became close with Gov. Terry Branstad and his inner circle when he was the head of the Republican Governors Association in 2014. The New Jersey governor and the super PAC backing him spent close to $600,000 in television ads there too.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spent significant money and still fared poorly. Garnering just 3 percent of caucusgoers, the $15 million in television ads the super PAC supporting him spent, not including the outlandish promotional material sent to people’s homes, cost a lot with little return. The PAC spent $2,900 per vote.
“The outcome isn’t what we wanted,” David Oman, an adviser to the Bush campaign in Iowa, said.
Oman said the campaign has one week to figure out what went wrong and what to do better.
The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday and it is the state that Christie, Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich have focused their campaigns.
The Granite State could be friendlier to the governors. Voters are more moderate and less focused on social issues. Forty-seven percent in of GOP primary voters identified as independents in 2012 and only 22 percent identify as evangelical compared to 57 percent in Iowa.
But it's a difficult road ahead for governors who position themselves as the most qualified to run the country because they've run a state. They are all trying to appeal to the same bloc of moderate voters and the voters aren't yet responding.
"If I get smoked here it's over," Kasich told NBC News.