CEDAR RAPIDS — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was preaching to the choir Friday afternoon as he exhorted the Republican faithful to redouble their efforts for the next 32 days to re-elect Gov. Terry Branstad and send Rod Blum to Congress.
Branstad, whom Christie called “a legend,” is headed to a perfect 20-0 record as a candidate in his bid for a sixth term, said Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Blum, a Dubuque businessman running in Iowa’s most Democratic congressional district, has an uphill fight that made Christie recall his election and re-election in blue New Jersey.
“I had all kinds of people tell me there’s no way I was going to win,” Christie said. No Republican had been elected statewide in 12 years.
He won and was re-elected with 61 percent of the vote in 2013.
“So with 32 days to go, don’t let anyone tell you he can’t win this race,” Christie said of Blum, who is facing state Rep. Pat Murphy, also from Dubuque. “He can and it’s up to each and every one of us. But it’s not going to happen unless every one of you digs in in the last 32 days.”
The crowd of about 80 people at the rally at Gee Asphalt in southwest Cedar Rapids enthusiastically backed Blum, but some of them also were looking beyond Nov. 4 to November 2016.
Jane Lehmkuhl of Cedar Rapids thinks the “say it as he sees it sort of guy” would make a great presidential candidate.
“He’s blunt, a great leader and he gets things done,” she said. “And he’s personable.”
Those are the same characteristics that appeal to Nancy Bruner, also of Cedar Rapids.
“I’d love to see him run,” said Bruner, who was seeing Christie for the third time. “He’s straightforward, he follows through, he’s a powerful leader, and I’d love to see him run.”
Christie, who will be back in Iowa later this month for Branstad’s birthday party fundraiser, has given signals he’s considering a presidential bid. However, for the time being, he’s focused on helping Republicans win in places like Iowa’s 1st District.
Asked about President Barack Obama saying that although his name isn’t on the ballot, his policies are, Christie embraced the idea.
“I think it’s a great admission by the president and I think it will be a referendum on those policies,” he said. Christie hopes that after the election Obama will “reach across the aisle and compromise and get some things done for the American people.”
While party officials have predicted the president inserting himself in the midterm election will prove to be an incentive for the GOP, Christie wasn’t sure Republicans could get more energized.
“Our side is fired up already so I don’t know that we need a whole lot more to fire us up,” Christie said. “We’re pretty fired up already. We are.”