The Christie campaign says he will host a “special announcement event” Tuesday in Des Moines. Six of the 7 Iowa Republicans who came to New Jersey to meet with Christie at the governor’s mansion on a recruitment mission in the last election cycle are scheduled to reveal they’re backing Christie again, several sources told The Des Moines Register.
The group includes some of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s biggest financial backers, including agribusiness millionaire Bruce Rastetter, who’s made a fortune in pork, ethanol and farm real estate.
“The endorsements can’t hurt. Rastetter in particular is potentially a huge get,” said David Redlawsk, a Rutgers Universityprofessor who is on sabbatical in Iowa researching the state’s caucus process and its impact on national politics.
“Rastetter is close to the Iowa governor, he chairs the Board of Regents which oversees the three state universities, and Politico did a piece calling him the ‘real Iowa kingmaker.’ These endorsements may give Christie a bump in terms of the insiders in Iowaand may have potential to improve his fundraising nationally,” Redlawsk said Monday.
Christie is lagging in Iowa polls, where the attention has been going to self-described outsiders Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina andBen Carson and to candidates more conservative than Christie, such as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee
Redlawsk said the new endorsements may not “mean a lot in terms of actual votes in an Iowa caucus. Christie still has to build a get out the vote operation which means a strong ground game. I don’t think he’s there yet but this might improve his Iowachances if it brings activists over to him as well.”
Rastetter used his private jet to take the other heavy hitters to New Jersey in 2011 when they thought Christie would be a better option than Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee.
Christie said no and the episode turned out to inflict political damage on him in several ways, starting with an ethics scandal.
Christie initially refused to reimburse taxpayers for $2,500-an-hour flights he took on a state-owned helicopter to get from his son’s high school baseball game to the meeting with the Iowa group. Under pressure, Christie changed course and said he and the state Republican Party would pay.
As for the snubbed visitors, they had remained neutral in the 2016 presidential race until now. The only one not getting on board with Christie is retired insurance executive Cameron Sutton, who is remaining neutral because he has since taken a job as a top staffer for Iowa U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, the Des Moines Register reported.
When Christie scouted Iowa for backers earlier this year, Gary Kirke, a member of the Rastetter group, told the Asbury Park Press that “embracing President Obama hurt him a lot since then.”
Kirke in the interview said he believed the George Washington Bridge scandal made potential donors skittish about Christie. The scandal had been “hanging over Christie’s head. It wasn’t a knockout blow, but it could be a problem if it pops up again,” he said at the time.
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