Gov. Nathan Deal won't be endorsing any single candidate in the growing crowd of Republicans running for president in 2016. But he will be supporting a quartet of GOPers who showed him some love during his last two campaigns.
That means Deal will urge his backers to rally behind the four former and current governors who supported his bids in 2010 and 2014: Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Jeb Bush of Florida and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
"The governor is grateful for and appreciative of the support he received from national leaders during his election and re-election bids. In 2010, Governor Huckabee campaigned for Governor Deal. In 2014, Governors Christie, Bush and Jindal made several trips to Georgia in support of him," said Chris Riley, Deal's chief of staff. "Their efforts are not forgotten. The governor’s loyalty lies with those who worked tirelessly on his behalf, and he intends to do the same for them if asked."
This is a contrast from Deal's role in the 2012 campaign, when he was an early supporter of native son Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who won Georgia's primary but failed to gain traction elsewhere.
Huckabee, the winner of Georgia's 2008 GOP presidential primary, was one of Deal's earliest and most vocal supporters during his 2010 campaign. The two pow-wowed during a trip to Israel last year and, state records show, have regularly kept in touch.
Christie, as head of the Republican Governors Association, made several trips to Georgia on Deal's behalf, including headlining a splashy rally in Gainesville for the GOP ticket three days before the election.
Deal often talks admiringly about Jindal and modeled his school takeover plan on a similar program embraced by the Louisiana governor, who has hosted fundraisers for Deal in Atlanta.
And Bush has visited Georgia several times in the ramp-up to his eventual campaign for president, including a memorable trip to the statehouse that coincided with a visit by Ludacris. The former Florida governor, a favorite of some of Deal's top aides, has praised Deal's school overhaul plans and met privately with Deal on several occasions.
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