Below are two recent quotes from Republican voters in New Hampshire. They are talking about one of the aspirants for the GOP presidential nomination. See if you can guess who they are talking about.

  1. “He says it like it is. He speaks the truth.”
  2. “[He] has a forceful personality, but unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword. The ‘tell it like it is,’ to be honest — he’s going to have to do a lot of convincing for folks to believe he’s really telling it like it is.”

The first quote came from a woman named Jessica, a data analyst, talking about Donald Trump during a fascinating Bloomberg Politics focus group. The second comment came from Andy Seale, a former chairman of the Milford County Republicans, in a New York Times story about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the limits of his “telling it like it is” personality.

Trump and Christie are larger-than-life figures in the New York media market. They are brash. They act boldly. And they rhetorically slice and dice critics with startling ease. Yet, the twice-elected Republican chief executive of a reliably blue state shivers in the shadow of a thrice-married real-estate tycoon known to be promiscuous in his political donations and positions. Despite a series of impolitic utterances that would have sunk other presidential campaigns (and for good reason), Trump continues to surge in the polls. The latest Quinnipiac Poll has the latter-day ‘Teflon Don’ atop the GOP 17 with 20-percent support.

The reason for the disparate views lies in who is doing the talking. None of the 12 people (six Republican and Republican-leaning) participating in the Bloomberg focus group is a party official. Five of the seven people quoted in The Times story have some kind of title or is a current or former elected official. Right there is the war raging within the GOP. The ticked-off primary voter who wants an uncompromising, “give ‘em hell” conservative nominee versus the ticked-off party establishment that wants a conservative candidate who can win in the general election.

John Heilemann of Bloomberg Politics, who conducted the focus group, made two observations that make me believe that this war is going to go on for a while, with Trump leading the pitchfork crew.

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“The support for The Donald on display among the supporters I met was striking for its depth and intensity,” Heilemann wrote. “These folks are not in kicking-the-tires mode. They give every appearance of being with Trump for the long haul.” And then there was this. When the group was shown clips of Jeb Bush and Rick Perry criticizing Trump, Heilemann observed, “The criticisms didn’t make Trump supporters think less of The Donald; it made them think less of Bush and Perry.”

This is bad news for the 16 other candidates trying to be heard on the campaign trail. And it is super bad news for Christie, the original “tell it like it is” presidential aspirant. As non-politician Trump eats up all the oxygen on the campaign trail, sitting-governor Christie’s campaign suffocates.

“I do think he has a very blunt personality,” said Matt Burrill, a town selectman from Newton, about Christie in that New York Times story. “There are going to be certain folks in New Hampshire where that will be a big plus, but others feel like that might not work on the national stage when we go to vote.” That view could very well apply to Trump. Just not yet.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj

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