New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is scheduled to travel to Iowa next week to campaign for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the state where the first votes in the party’s nomination race will be cast on Jan. 3.
News of the visit coincides with the start today of Romney’s television advertising in Iowa promoting his credentials as a “conservative businessman.”
The two developments offer the latest signs that Romney is ramping up efforts to more aggressively compete in the Iowa caucuses as former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is campaigning in the state today, is getting a second look from the state’s Republican activists.
“Mitt Romney has always said that he would campaign and compete in Iowa,” Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, said in announcing the commercial. “He looks forward to participating in the two upcoming Iowa debates. Going on television is just another tool in getting Mitt Romney’s message out that Barack Obama has failed as a president.”
Christie is to appear on Romney’s behalf on Dec. 7, according to a Romney campaign official who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the event. No details of Christie’s Iowa stop were available.
Romney gained Christie’s endorsement on Oct. 11, just hours before a Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire sponsored by Bloomberg News and the Washington Post. Christie’s backing came a few days after he announced he wouldn’t undertake his own presidential bid, dashing the hopes of some Republican leaders and donors who had sought an alternative to Romney and the party’s other candidates.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and business executive, had signaled during most of this year that he wouldn’t make an all-out push to win the caucuses. He has visited Iowa just five times in 2011. His most recent campaign foray in the state was Nov. 23, after he skipped a Nov. 19 forum in Des Moines that was sponsored by social-conservative groups and drew 3,000 people.
A Bloomberg News poll conducted in Iowa Nov. 10-12 showed Romney in a statistical tie in the state with businessman Herman Cain, U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas and Gingrich. Since then, Gingrich has gained in national polls as Cain has fallen amid allegations that he sexually harassed four women and had an extramarital affair with an Atlanta woman.
In Romney’s presidential bid four years ago, social conservatives in Iowa balked at his past support of abortion rights and the Massachusetts health-care overhaul he signed into law. Romney’s second-place finish to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in the caucuses helped to derail his 2008 bid.
A Romney win in the 2012 caucuses followed by a victory in the New Hampshire primary a week later would put him in a strong position to capture the party’s nomination. Romney, who owns property in New Hampshire and was governor of a neighboring state, has led polls in that state all year.
To contact the reporter on this story: John McCormick in Des Moines, Iowa at firstname.lastname@example.org