ASHLAND, N.H. (AP) — Six years ago, New Jersey's Chris Christie was a longshot candidate for governor, taking on a wealthy incumbent in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.
It's an experience, the now two-term Republican governor told potential voters in New Hampshire on Wednesday, that feels a lot like the journey he's now embarked on, running for the Republican nomination for president against rivals who have so far eclipsed him and trying to win over voters who have yet to embrace him.
"You know, Mary Pat and I have been talking over the last few days as we've officially started this adventure about how similar this is to when we started running for governor in 2009," Christie said, referring to his wife, at a house party in Bridgewater, New Hampshire, the day after declaring his candidacy.
"Think about what it's like running as a Republican in New Jersey," he said. He recalled "working person to person, bringing people into our effort to make them believe that we could actually do it.
"And believe me, it took a while," Christie added. "But all good things take a while. All good things in life take effort."
Christie collected the endorsement earlier of Maine Gov. Paul LePage, the first Republican governor to announce a pick in the presidential race.
LePage, blunt like Christie, said the New Jersey governor is "the real deal."
"He's not gonna be a politician and talk out of both sides of his mouth," LePage said, speaking at a hastily arranged press event under a leaking tent on the deck of Becky's Diner in Portland, Maine. LePage also praised Christie's recent chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, which poured more than $5 million into LePage's tough re-election fight last year.
The event came hours before a Maine legislative committee voted to launch an investigation into LePage's ethics. Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves says LePage forced a school for at-risk youth to fire him from the top job there by threatening to withhold more than $500,000 a year in state money.
Christie has faced troubles of his own,
Christie's reputation was damaged by a political payback scandal in which top aides were charged with creating politically motivated traffic jams at a bridge to retaliate against a Democratic mayor who declined to endorse Christie's re-election. Christie denies he had anything to do with it, and no evidence has emerged that he was involved.
Christie will be in New Hampshire, a state seen as crucial to his hopes, through Saturday.
Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin contributed to this report from Augusta, Maine.
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