Chris Christie Feels the Love in Iowa

By Berg, Rebecca | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, July 17, 2014 | Go to article overview

Chris Christie Feels the Love in Iowa


Berg, Rebecca, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


MARION, Iowa -- At 3 p.m. on a Thursday, well after any lunch rush had come and gone, MJ's Restaurant in Marion was teeming with activity.

Local Republicans filled seats at nearly bare tables -- a coffee mug here, an iced tea there -- and dozens of reporters loitered, all waiting to see Gov. Terry Branstad and his potential-future- presidential-candidate guest, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, making his first trip to Iowa since 2012.

The whole scene initially felt like an awkward first date: Iowa Republicans, still puzzling over what went wrong in their last presidential election, being wooed by an attractive new suitor and urged to move on.

Vic Klopfenstein had ended up at this particular lunch joint by coincidence and decided to stay for the spectacle, but he was still hung up on a former flame.

"Is there a rumor mill out east about Mitt Romney running?" Klopfenstein, a former Marion mayor, asked. "Or the two of them together..." He trailed off wistfully, considering a Romney- Christie ticket. "They'd be unstoppable."

A large share of Iowa Republicans still have reservations about Christie, and one-third have already decided they dislike him, an NBC News/Marist poll released Thursday showed.

"That's not bad," Christie said when confronted with those numbers. "I'll take it."

And Christie hadn't come to Iowa looking for love, anyway -- or so he said.

"I don't care about being loved," Christie told reporters. "I care about being respected."

Officially, Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, traveled to Iowa on Thursday to raise money as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. The opportunity to gladhand in one of the states that will steer his party's nomination for president was, of course, a happy byproduct.

And, although Christie was campaigning for Branstad's re- election, strictly speaking, supporters peppered Christie with entreaties to launch a campaign of his own, for president.

"I'm thinking about it," Christie responded each time.

But Christie, introducing himself as "Chris," impressed upon Iowans who welcomed him to their state that he was "glad to be back" -- he campaigned in the state for Branstad in 2010 and Mitt Romney in 2012 -- and wasn't shy to tell them he'd be back again soon, too.

Indeed, Christie began to lay plans for future trips in some discussions Thursday with Iowa Republicans.

At a private fundraiser for Branstad in Cedar Rapids, where donors munched on turkey club sandwiches and cheesecake, Christie approached Republican congressional candidate Rod Blum, who is running in Iowa's first district, with an offer to help raise money during a future trip, Blum said later. …

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