CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chis Christie stayed coy Tuesday about any presidential plans as he raised campaign cash for GOP candidates in North and South Carolina.
In Charleston, as Christie and Gov. Nikki Haley stopped to meet voters in a crowded grill, Christie was asked if he would be back to South Carolina, home of his party's first-in-the-South presidential primary.
"I'll be coming back as many times as Gov. Haley wants me to come back in the next 49 days" before Nov. 4, when voters choose their candidates for governor, the House and the Senate. "Then after that we will see what happens."
On his first visit to the state as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie stayed in moderate Charleston, in contrast to other potential GOP candidates who made early visits to conservatives elsewhere.
The Republican Governors Association said that the organization has raised $75 million while Christie has served as chairman and by the end of the week he will have attended events in 28 states and the District of Columbia.
Earlier in the day, he attended a private fundraiser in Wilmington, North Carolina for state House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November.
Christie appeared with Tillis at a downtown restaurant, amid protesters outside who are upset with the state for slashing the North Carolina's film incentives. There were protesters across the street in Charleston as well, protesting Haley's failure to expand Medicaid in South Carolina, something Christie has done in New Jersey.
"You don't treat all states the same," Haley said. "We did what was right for South Carolina and he did what was right for New Jersey."
"We support each other because we believe our jobs are to serve the people of our states, not have some monolithic policy that comes out of Washington, D.C.," Christie added.
South Carolina has long been a key to winning the GOP nomination.
Although Newt Gingrich won the state's presidential primary two years ago, for the 30 years before the primary winner always went on to win the GOP nomination.
As a Northeastern governor, Christie would have much to prove to South Carolina voters who are generally more conservative than in voters in New Jersey.
A steady stream of other potential 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls have made trips to South Carolina recently, with most visiting more conservative upstate South Carolina.
Last month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry attended a football game between his alma mater, Texas A&M, and the University of South Carolina in Columbia as part of a two-day visit. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida attended a barbecue held by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., in the upstate city of Anderson. The event has become a go-to stop for Republicans with national political aspirations.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has also made several trips to South Carolina while Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was in Columbia for a fundraiser Monday.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report from Newark, N.J.