DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — New Jersey's Chris Christie insists it's his role as Republican Governors Association chairman that's bringing him to Iowa this week, to raise money for other politicians, including Gov. Terry Branstad, a five-term incumbent with lots of campaign cash already.
Iowa, of course, is an important early-voting state in the presidential nominating calendar. But Christie told The Associated Press, "I'm not gearing up to run up for president. I'm gearing up to win as many governor's races as I can this November and then we'll make decisions about running for president after that."
Branstad, for one, doesn't need Christie's fundraising help. Branstad is sitting on $4 million in his campaign account and has outraised his little-known Democratic challenger by 10-to-1 this year.
In truth, there's much more to Christie's scheduled visit Thursday for the embattled governor and potential 2016 White House contender, and for Iowa.
Christie seems certain to bring wide attention to Iowa's 2016 presidential caucuses, so central to the state's national identity.
For Christie, the visit is shaping up as an exclamation point to his return to the type of public politics for which he was so well known before allegations of a political payback scandal at home enveloped him.
"What helps him the most is the fact that he's doing a good job as chairman of the RGA, keeping his nose to that, and doing a great job as governor of New Jersey," said Ron Kaufman, a Republican national committeeman and adviser to 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney. "That's what helps him later on."
Christie's trip is sure to send a strong signal to GOP activists and donors that he considers himself politically alive and well.
Peoples reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin reported from Newark, New Jersey.