Sep 25, 2014 5:10 PM

Christie ramps up travel in midterm homestretch

The Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Gov. Chris Christie has already spent more than a third of his second term outside of New Jersey, mostly stumping and raising money for fellow Republicans. As the midterm elections draw near, the prospective White House candidate is planning even more time on the road.

So far this week he's been in St. Louis, Chicago and Stamford, Connecticut. On Friday it will be Michigan and Pennsylvania. Next week: Wisconsin and Ohio first, then a western swing through California, Colorado and Arizona.

"I'll keep you all busy," Christie assured reporters. In all, Christie said last week, he planned to spend about 29 of the next 47 days on the road.

Christie is far from the only potential presidential hopeful combining campaigning for the midterms with tending to their presidential ambitions. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is out almost every weekend, with stops made or planned for states including Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who mostly has been taking care of business at home until recently, is set for public appearances in the next few weeks with Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas, GOP gubernatorial hopeful Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

But Christie has the unique advantage of being chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which comes with a robust fundraising operation, a 30-person staff and dedicated campaign infrastructure. He's also something of a political celebrity who is trailed by reporters from both national outlets and New Jersey publications everywhere he goes.

"Doing the job right is the best thing he can do if he's thinking of running for higher officer," said Ron Kaufman, the former White House political director and senior adviser to 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and former RGA finance chair.

"Because he's been so aggressive in helping ... he'll be responsible for really helping this party have a successful 2014," Kaufman said.

The summer spent campaigning has provided Christie with an opportunity to try to move past the politically motivated bid by members of his staff last year to create traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge. Investigations into the plot are ongoing, and Christie has said he played no role.

It's also given Christie a chance to build relationships with Republican donors and party activists, prove he has the stamina necessary to sustain the grueling pace of a presidential campaign and rack up favors from candidates across the country who could prove crucial allies if he decides to run. He's proven himself a powerful fundraiser, with $75 million raised by the RGA on his watch so far.

While Christie has focused on states with competitive governor's races, such as Connecticut and Illinois, he has also logged several visits to states that will cast the first ballots of the 2016 presidential campaign, including New Hampshire and Iowa, where he's set to return next month to headline Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's annual birthday bash, one of the biggest events on the state's political calendar.

Phil Musser, the former RGA executive director and a top GOP consultant, said Christie had taken a different approach than previous RGA chairmen "who really dedicated all their time and energy to just the tier-1, highest-priority states" in the summer and fall.

Christie, he said, had spent more time in off-the-beaten-path places like Oklahoma and Alabama, where Republicans are expected to win easily. That approach has not only earned Christie good will with his colleagues, but has also helped the RGA financially, Musser said.

Mike DuHaime, Christie's top political adviser, stressed the efforts were nothing new and that he's campaigned extensively since 2010.

"He's been able to use the fact that he's got star power, the fact that he can raise money, can attract media attention, to help other people," DuHaime said.

Still, there are signs that Christie's constant travel may be taking a toll at home.

A new poll from Monmouth University and the Asbury Park Press out Wednesday in New Jersey showed Christie's job approval rating dipping slightly over the summer. Its pollster suggested Christie's frequent out-of-state travel and growing presidential buzz which used to be an asset may be to blame.

And some Democrats in the state continue to criticize his frequent absence. John Currie, chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, said in a statement that it comes as little surprise Christie "would arrogantly spend one-third of the year focused on political matters completely unrelated to his official responsibilities."


Associated Press writer Michael Mishak in Miami contributed to this report.


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