Christie Making A Play for Iowa?

ChristieIAJust how crazy is the 2016 presidential race? A four-term Republican governor with an impressive record of economic growth in one of the largest states in the country never found his footing and was quickly dispensed with. Another governor, who for months sat on the top of national and Iowa polls, was out before calendars turned to October.  Jeb Bush’s campaign was supposed to be a juggernaut, but besides its fundraising success, it’s been a boondoggle.

Now, some of the top financial backers of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad are throwing their support to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is currently polling in 13th place in Iowa, 9th place in New Hampshire, and 8th place nationally.

If Vince Lombardi is looking down on the Republican race for president, he’s probably barking, “What the hell is going on out here?” That’s a question that many political observers have been asking for months now.

In any other presidential cycle, a candidate in Christie’s position may be left for dead, but in the odd and unpredictable 2016 Republican primary, Christie is getting a boost by rolling out the endorsement of a handful of Republicans businessmen, who four years ago attempted to recruit Christie to run for President against Mitt Romney in 2012. But these businessmen didn’t immediately jump on board Christie’s 2016 candidacy.

The high-profile endorsements come at a pivotal time for Christie. While his poll numbers continue to lag, they have improved since the primary debates began. And even though Christie is a long shot to win the caucuses, the endorsements of Bruce Rastetter, Gary Kirke, Denny Elwell, Mike Richards, and Jim Kersten are also notable for no other reason than because of who they are not backing – Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich.

Christie’s ability to land these endorsements is likely the result of the effort he’s made in Iowa for the past six years. These individuals didn’t jump on a plane back in 2011 to encourage Christie to run for president on a whim. Even back then, they had had ample exposure to the New Jersey Governor because of his willingness to assist in Branstad’s 2010 campaign for Governor. But while Christie has invested time and effort to foster meaningful relationships in Iowa, the same can’t be said of the other establishment candidates in the race.

What these endorsements ultimately mean for Christie remains to be seen. In the last Des Moines Register Iowa Poll in late August, Christie had a 59 percent unfavorability rating, meaning that even an impressive slew of endorsement may not be able to turn things around for him in Iowa. If Christie were running for governor in Iowa, these endorsements would be incredibly impactful, yet in a presidential campaign, it’s yet to be seen how influential they will be in getting people to turn out to support Christie at the caucuses in February.

List of endorsers: 

Bruce Rastetter: Central Iowa agri-businessman, President of the Iowa Board of Regents, influential political donor and bundler.

Denny Elwell: Central Iowa entrepreneur and real-estate developer. Has numerous high traffic properties in Ankeny, which often sport political signs of the candidates he supports.

Gary Kirke: Well-known Des Moines entrepreneur, insurance, real estate, and currently operates three Iowa casinos in Clinton, Emmetsburg, and Jefferson.

Michael Richards: serves as the Vice Chairman of Kirke’s casino operation as well as being the Vice Chairman of Quatro Composites, a carbon fiber composite company.

Jim Kersten: Vice President of External Relations and Government Affairs for Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, and former Iowa State Senator.

Mikel Derby: Legislative Liaison for the Iowa Department of Transportation, was Terry Branstad’s driver in his 2010 gubernatorial primary, became Branstad’s executive assistant during the general election.



Photo by Dave Davidson –