At a Marco Rubio rally in Littleton, New Hampshire, 29-year-old Danielle Matteson had a pressing question for the candidate.
“What is your response to those who question your ability to hold this nation’s highest executive role, given that many of your competitors have had previous executive experience, either at the private sector or at the state level?” she asked Rubio.
“There is no such thing as experience that fully prepares you for the presidency,” Rubio replied. “Being President of the United States is not like being a governor.”
Matteson’s question is one that repeatedly came up over the course of Rubio’s three-day swing in New Hampshire, where Rubio must prove to voters he is more qualified to be president than the three candidates with gubernatorial experience that are up against him -- Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich. All four Republican candidates are fighting to win the state as their party's establishment candidate.
Christie has repeatedly argued that as governor of New Jersey, he has stronger leadership skills than the Florida senator.
“He doesn’t have the experience,” Christie said of Rubio earlier this month. “The fact is that he’s a first-term senator who’s never had to make any significant decisions in his career. That’s not the kind of on-the-job training that we need for the White House.”
“I was speaker of the Florida House. I worked closely near governors for all those years that I was there. [Being president] is nothing like being governor,” Rubio told Matteson on Tuesday.
Just a few doors down from where Rubio was speaking, Jeb Bush was also having a rally, touting his own record as former governor of Florida. Bush often talks about the amount of jobs he created while in office.
“Anyone who tells you ‘when I was governor, we created a million jobs,’ I would be concerned because if they’re telling the truth, that means they grew government by a million jobs. That’s the only way a politician creates a million jobs,” Rubio said Tuesday, a line that has become a regular part of his stump.
“The one thing the president does have to do is be commander-in-chief. And the governors are not commander-in-chief,” he said, before adding “and neither are senators.” But Rubio maintains he has shown better judgment on national security than any of his rivals have.
Unprompted, Rubio then went on to compare himself to president Obama, who, like Rubio, was also a first-term senator when he was elected president in 2008.
“That question often comes up in the following context,” Rubio told Matteson. “’Obama was a senator, you’re a senator, he was there for two years, you’ve been there for four years, explain to us how it's going to be different’.”
It’s a question 78-year-old Bill Doherty asked again this morning at a breakfast event in Franklin, New Hampshire.
Rubio argued Obama hadn’t “failed” because of his prior experience, but because of his policies "don't work."
Doherty later said he was impressed with the senator's response, but still not fully sold.
“I do believe that governors in the race have more experience,” he said, adding he is currently leaning towards Bush.
“However, if [Rubio] wins the primary, I’d be happy to support him, because I think he brings a lot to the table,” Doherty said.