Major Iowa GOP donor Bruce Rastetter today stood alongside Chris Christie and announced he’s endorsing the New Jersey Governor for the Republican nomination for president.
Rastetter and other influential Iowans are backing the man they tried to convince to run in the last presidential election.
Flanked by other political heavy hitters, Rastetter announced the endorsements any candidate would envy.
The group wasn’t happy with the Republican field four years ago, so they boarded Rastetter’s plane and flew to Christie’s home turf.
“We were concerned about the direction of the country,” Rastetter said.
Rastetter along with real estate developer Denny Elwell and casino executive Gary Kirke and the others tried but failed to get Christie to run
This year Rastetter says Christie stood out again.
“It became clear to us that the same reason we went to New Jersey in 2011 exists today in even a greater way,” Rastetter said.
Rastetter praises Christie’s bold and direct leadership style, what in other contexts he has also called blunt.
Christie wasn’t just sitting back and hoping the GOP leaders would notice him again. After his decision not to run in 2011, Christie has been making friends with key Iowa Republicans including supporting Governor Branstad’s 2012 campaign.
He was asked how it feels that four years ago Iowa Republicans were chasing him, and now he’s chasing Iowa Republicans.
“I have a realistic attitude about this stuff,” Christie says. “I don’t care who chases who as long as we wind up getting married. Today’s the ceremony.”
Christie touts his administration’s conservative accomplishments from ending teacher tenure to capping property taxes. But the Christie years have been marred by high-profile controversies, including an alleged scheme to close parts of George Washington Bridge for political reasons, threatening public safety.
One potential voter Dustin Hanson of Eldora is aware of that.
“The bridge issue, yeh,” Hanson says with a laugh. “You could argue that looking at his poll numbers maybe he should have (run) in 2012.”
Christie denies that Bridgegate might hurt his chances:
“I’m proud of what I’ve done over the course of time in reacting to challenges whether manmade inside my administration or natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy,” Christie says. “All of those have tested me.”
Regardless of the bridge controversy, Hanson likes Governor Christie.
“I feel he’s a little more brash and open than some of the candidates,” Hanson says. “When you hear it from him it’s true and he’s not just trying to be politically correct.”
Hanson admits that sounds like billionaire businessman Donald Trump, another candidate Hanson is considering.
For many Republican caucusgoers, Christie won’t be hard-line enough what with his reputation for compromising with Democrats. Christie says compromise and capitulation are two different things.
Referring to the prominent Republicans on stage with him, he suggests GOP moderates are alive and well in Iowa.
“These folks have been a part of some of the most successful campaigns in Iowa history,” Christie said. “A reporter asked, does that mean you are part of the Branstad wing of the Republican party?” Christie said.
“If you mean the winning wing then yes,” he adds.
Christie wouldn’t comment on how much money the new endorsements would bring into his campaign coffers.
“That would be unseemly,” he said, smiling.
He vows to spend more time in the state between now and the February 1st caucuses.
So far his campaign has focused on New Hampshire. Christie explains the Granite State is closer to home, and it’s early in the race.