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NJ Gov. Christie Back Again In Iowa; 2016 On Mind?

chrisNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie returned to Iowa on Saturday to headline one of the biggest events on the state’s political calendar and seize the chance to meet with Republican activists and fundraisers who could propel a potential White House bid in 2016.

Christie was to be the featured speaker at fellow GOP Gov. Terry Branstad’s birthday bash in Clive, outside Des Moines, after attending Rep. Steve King’s annual pheasant hunt lunch in Akron in northwest Iowa.

While support for a Christie candidacy among a wide-open field lags in early polling among likely GOP caucus-goers, Christie has forged strong ties with some important Iowa operatives who have made it clear they would jump to help if he decided to run.

The visit, about a week before the midterm elections, was Christie’s third in recent times to a state where Republican voters are generally seen as more conservative than Christie’s natural base.

“I’m strongly supporting him,” said Jim Kersten, a former state senator who joined other Iowa powerbrokers on a mission to New Jersey in 2011 to try to lure the governor into running against President Barack Obama the next year.

Kersten said Christie’s latest trip to Iowa would allow him to interact with a wide cross-section of voters.

Kersten said the stop in northwest Iowa, “the heart of the conservative Republican base, is very important and I think it says a lot that he’s willing to come up and have a discussion with them.”

The large crowd expected for Branstad’s celebration would represent “the real faithful from all across the state,” Kersten said. “So I think it gives him an opportunity to really see and get to know and other Iowans get to know him.”

But even with enthusiastic backers, recent polls suggest Christie could face an uphill climb is he were to make a play for the state.

A recent Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll found just 6 percent of Republican likely caucus-goers say Christie would be their first choice for president; that put him eighth in a crowded group led by 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

While the field appears wide-open, Christie’s negative ratings are the highest of the bunch, with 45 percent of those who responded saying their feelings toward him are either mostly or very unfavorable.

John Ymker, 65, who runs a pork plant, said he was open to a potential Christie candidacy, but has his doubts, pointing specifically to Christie’s embrace of Obama after Superstorm Sandy.

“You know, birds who flock fly together,” he said before heading into King’s lunch. “That bothered me.”

In past years, other national politicians have gone hunting with the congressman. Christie was skipping that outing.


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