A number of Iowa Republicans were surprised to see the image of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie winning reelection in their mailboxes on a holiday card with a warm greeting. According to multiple sources, the recipients interpreted the card as a sign Christie is running in 2016.
The holiday card, featuring the Christie family on a podium as the Governor delivered his victory speech, first appeared on Buzzfeed. A New Jersey GOP spokesman denied the cards were specifically meant for Iowans, saying they were sent to a “wide variety” of Republicans to whom Christie wanted to send greetings.
However, the Republicans targeted seem to find that explanation too dismissive to believe – particularly those whom Christie does not know personally.
A somewhat bemused Iowa State Representative Bobby Kaufman told Buzzfeed, “I have never met him and don’t know anyone in his camp,” though he appreciated the gesture. Rep. Peter Cownie, who spoke to the Des Moines Register, openly stated he thought the reason for the card was that the Governor was “thinking about running for president,” because a governor of New Jersey thinking about Iowans during the holiday season with no such ulterior motive seemed a stretch to him. Rep. Jake Highfill, the other confirmed recipient of Christie’s winter greetings, told Buzzfeed he “laughed for ten minutes” when he opened his card because of how confused the New Jersey return address made him and how transparent of a 2016 ploy the card seemed to him.
The Christie camp is not openly describing the card – whose contents were a Bible verse and well-wishes from him and his family – as an express reminder to Iowans that Christie exists. On the contrary, it is arguing that a “wide variety of Republicans” in and out of Iowa received the card. The cards were paid for by the New Jersey Republican State Committee, and Christie can argue that he is, as president of the Republican Governor’s Association, a national Republican leader who has reason to send greetings to many Republicans outside of the state.
No one doubts that other Republicans not in Iowa received holiday cards from him for reasons that have nothing to do with the 2016 presidential race. However, it is difficult for Christie to argue that the three known Iowan recipients would have been put on his list for reasons other than the 2016 race. After all, these are not politicians with whom Christie has a close relationship – they all seemed confused by the greeting and barely know the governor.
The simple gesture of sending Iowa Republicans a card will do Christie little favors with New Jerseyans who contend that he has long lost inspiration to do his job as governor of New Jersey. The state’s biggest paper, the Star-Ledger, has repeatedly attacked Christie for what it contends is behavior intended to attract a primary Republican voting bloc. While not all signs point to Christie having definitively decided on a run for president, he has absolutely been managing his public image in a way intended to control and own the culture of the Republican Party.
This has not made Republicans out of state much more comfortable with Christie than his more loudly objecting constituents. They see him as a moderate governor who has refused to campaign for more conservative members of the party and has pushed moderate policies that do not align with the ideological goals of Republicans elsewhere in the country.
Somewhere in the large gap between Democrats who have chosen him as the candidate and Republicans who desperately don’t want to, however, Christie has a proven ability to win voting groups with which Republicans struggle. Christie won reelection in New Jersey with 30% of the black vote – highly unusual for Republicans in New Jersey – and won the Latino vote by plurality, which he deemed the success he was most proud of on Election Day. He is also polling strongly against the presumed Democratic contender, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, triggering an all-out left wing campaign to portray Christie as a backroom-dealing, unpleasant bully before he hits a podium to debate Clinton.