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The Gazette KCRG
Posted June 1, 2011
Iowa supporters still enthusiastic about Christie, despite non-candidacy

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reacts May 24 in Trenton, N.J., after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in a 3-2 decision Tuesday that the state must increase its funding to low-income school districts by an estimated $500 million. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

He didn’t get the answer he wanted, but Iowa Republican Bruce Rastetter says his attempt to convince New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to run for president wasn’t a wasted effort.

Not only is Christie planning to participate in an education summit in Iowa next month, but Rastetter believes the first-term Republican will help other GOP candidates in Iowa and nationally.

Rastetter, CEO of Hawkeye Renewables, an energy company, led a group of seven Iowa campaign donors to New Jersey May 31 to meet with Christie, who had said he wouldn’t run for the 2012 GOP nomination.

Over a dinner of chicken, rib eye and sweet corn, Christie delivered the message personally that he believes his job is in the governor’s office, not the White House, according to the Associated Press.

“It was exactly what we intended it to be, short of him saying he’d run,” Rastetter said after dinner at the New Jersey governor’s mansion.

Still, he said Wednesday, it was not a wasted trip.

“The purpose it served was to build a relationship with a guy who is going to be a force nationally, politically, whether he is governor of New Jersey or he runs for higher office someday,” said Rastetter, a Hardin County Republican. “So building that relationship as an Iowan for Iowans is important.”

The Iowa delegation tried to respect Christie’s commitment to New Jersey voters who elected him governor only 15 months ago by suggesting that as president he could serve both the Garden State and the nation.

“The challenge we put to him – and really to New Jersey — is what would be more important to them and in the longer term for the country: for him to be governor or to be president of the United States?” Rastetter said. “We would suggest New Jersey benefits greatly, as does the country, if he should run and win.”

Rastetter, who was appointed to the Iowa Board of Regents by Gov. Terry Branstad whose campaign he backed financially, defended the recruiting trip as a business-like approach to finding the best candidate for the job. The trip was criticized by some as an attempt by GOP heavy-hitters to bypass the traditional Iowa precinct caucus process.

“When you go about recruiting a great employee or CEO for your company, you go out and recruit,” he said. “That’s clearly what we were doing with Gov. Christie.”

Taking that sort of a direct approach might be less arrogant than “sitting around, waiting for candidates to spend time with us, asking us to support them,” he added.

The Republican Party of Iowa had no official comment on the draft Christie delegation. A party spokesman described Rastetter and the others as “free agents.”

Christie isn’t the first governor Iowans have tried to recruit this year. Steve Grubbs, a former state party chairman, sought to convince Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to join the race. He decided against it.

Others have worked on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, son and brother of previous presidents, to enter the race despite his earlier decision not to seek the presidency.

And in 2000, then Texas Gov. George W. Bush was encouraged to run by Republicans who were looking for a candidate more aligned with their pro-business agenda, low taxes and limited government than cultural issues.

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