DES MOINES, Iowa -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie became Mitt Romney’s chief surrogate in Iowa on Friday. Though their demeanors couldn’t be more different –- Christie is as brash as Romney is reserved –- there are reasons why the two men have united during this election cycle.
Both have been Republican governors in the Northeast who have had to learn to navigate around Democratic-controlled legislatures. When Christie was running in 2009, he said, Romney was an early and important backer.
“There's 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans in New Jersey, and we haven't elected a Republican United States senator since 1972,” he told a crowd in Des Moines. “So there weren't a lot of people in 2009 who were lining up to get on a Republican’s bandwagon for governor, but I will tell you, one of the people who was was Mitt Romney.”
Christie continued, "He came down, he worked for me, he campaigned for me, and more than anything else he was a resource and a friend at a time when nobody in this country knew who I was, and half the people in New Jersey didn't know who I was yet. And those are the kind of friends that you remember, because they're the people who aren't there for the fame or for the glory -- they're there because he believed in me and what I was doing and what I was talking about."
Romney often brings up the fact that he worked with a Democratic legislature during his tenure as Massachusetts governor as evidence that he can work across the aisle. With Congress now drawing record-low approval ratings, he has sought to optimistically assure voters that he has what it takes to break partisan deadlock.
"I think there are Republicans and Democrats who will sit down, work together and say, `We are going to put America on sound financial footing.... I can tell you, I'm not going to spend my time bashing Democrats and attacking them day in and day out, because that makes it look impossible to sit down and work together," Romney said this week.
Christie doesn't have the same track record at this point in his administration. He's currently enmeshed in a stalemate with local Democrats over the confirmation of New Jersey's education commissioner and a state Superior Court nominee. He recently called Democratic state Sen. Richard Codey an "awful partisan." Codey responded by calling the governor "childish."
But Christie's unabashed Jersey-guy demeanor attracts GOP and independent voters, and the Romney campaign knows the governor can deliver lines that, when coming from Romney, might sound harsh or overly aggressive. In fact, some voters say they remain disappointed that Christie decided not to seek the presidency.
Among them is Faye Remington of Marlon, Iowa, who came to Friday’s event. "I like his outspokenness," she said of Christie. But since he's not running -- and is supporting Romney instead -- she said that she will, too.
And as Christie shook hands with voters after his Friday rally, he fielded the question many voters here have: Would he be Romney’s running mate in 2012?
"I don't know, we'll see," Christie responded.