BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sought to give a final boost to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's re-election bid on Thursday night, saying he's got his fingers crossed for a blowout.
Addressing a crowd of more than 200 gathered on a factory floor in Burlington in southeast Iowa, the potential 2016 candidate expressed his full-throated support for Branstad, who is far ahead in the polls.
"I don't want just a win for Terry and Kim on Nov. 4. I want a big, fat blowout win on Nov. 4 for these two," said Christie, referring to Branstad, a longtime friend, and his running-mate, Kim Reynolds.
The visit marked Christie's fourth to the early-voting state in recent months and his second of the week, giving him yet another chance to court caucus voters ahead of a potential presidential run.
And Christie, who is in his final stretch as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, used the opportunity to shower his Republican counterpart with praise, comparing Branstad to a baseball legend and describing him as a role model and "seasoned, selfless leader" who sets goals and achieves them.
"Gosh, wouldn't it be nice if we had that kind of leadership in this country again?" Christie said.
Christie recalled that when Branstad, whom he'd long looked up to, first called Christie to campaign with him, the then-newly elected New Jersey governor was floored.
"I'm like, Terry Branstad? That's like if you're a baseball fan and Mickey Mantle calls and says, 'Would you come take batting practice with me?' That's what it's like," Christie gushed. "I could have flown out here without a plane!"
Branstad is running against Democrat Jack Hatch and is on track to become the nation's longest-serving governor. The visit was intended to help Branstad win in Lee County, which he's never carried, and boost congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
Christie has used his friendship with Branstad to meet Iowa voters, activist and donors and said that, contrary to what many may think, the brash Northeastern governor feels "so at home" in the state.
"Every time I come to Iowa, I am received so warmly and so kindly by the citizens of Iowa," he said. "That's been a wonderful gift that I've gotten from my friendship with Terry is the chance over the last four years to get to know all of you."
The stop was Christie's fourth of the day, following campaign stops in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. He'll be in Arkansas, Kansas and Wisconsin Friday.