Chris Christie campaigns in Iowa for Romney

Reuters News
|
Posted: Dec 07, 2011 10:13 PM
Chris Christie campaigns in Iowa for Romney

By Colleen Jenkins

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie campaigned in Iowa on Wednesday for Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney, who trails in the state a month before it kicks off presidential nominating contests.

Iowa's large bloc of social conservatives has been slow to embrace Romney over what it considers his moderate positions. Polls show him behind House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich in Iowa, which holds its presidential caucuses on January 3. Romney is to visit Iowa later this week.

"If you're looking for the candidate who agrees with you on everything, buy a mirror," Christie said.

Christie said the former Massachusetts governor was the only candidate who could "take the fight" to Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.

"I believe he's the only Republican who can win," Christie said.

The blunt-spoken New Jersey governor steered clear of attacking the other Republican candidates, directing his criticism toward Obama and brushing off concerns about Romney.

Gingrich's recent surge in the Republican race threatens Romney's front-runner status.

Romney has been criticized for not spending enough time in Iowa, where he lost in 2008 despite spending millions to build a vast ground operation.

While noting that campaigns had a limited amount of time, Christie said, "I hope he spends more time out here."

The rally at the headquarters of the Kum & Go convenience store chain in West Des Moines was interrupted briefly by anti-Wall Street protesters chanting, "Put people first!"

"We're used to working with jokers like this in New Jersey all the time," Christie he said.

"Their anger is rooted not in me, or Mitt Romney," he said. "Their anger is rooted in the fact that they believed in this hope and change garbage," referring to slogans from Obama's 2008 campaign.

Christie endorsed Romney in October after deciding against his own presidential bid and has since made a handful of campaign stops on Romney's behalf in such early voting states as New Hampshire and Florida.

'NEEDS TO BE HERE'

Christie is a popular figure in Iowa, and his conservative credentials and charismatic style could resonate with some conservative Republican caucus-goers who struggle with Romney's authenticity, political analysts said.

"It certainly can't hurt," said Doug Gross, who served as Romney's Iowa chairman in 2008 but is so far neutral in the 2012 race.

But political observers said that while Christie's appearance might help fire up volunteers and Romney's base, it would not win the candidate any new supporters.

"Romney needs to be here, being tested, reflecting his views," Gross said. "There's no substitute in the caucuses to having the candidate out here. Where Mitt has failed so far is his lack of presence."

The Romney campaign announced on Wednesday the candidate would hold a town hall meeting to discuss jobs and the economy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Friday, before a Republican debate in Des Moines on Saturday.

Before the rally, 59-year-old Jean Weiler of Clive, Iowa, said it bothered her that Romney had not been in Iowa more often making personal connections with voters.

"I'm not 100 percent convinced on where (Romney) stands on some issues," Weiler said. "I just feel like Gingrich is more assertive."

(Editing by Peter Cooney)