As the nation’s governors convened in Washington, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his team worked quietly Friday to right a nascent presidential bid struggling to build momentum.
The often-outspoken governor had no public appearances at the weekend gathering of the National Governors Association. Instead, he arranged an aggressive schedule of private meetings aimed at boosting his position among donors and GOP activists.
Christie loyalists tried to project a sense of calm in the face of many longtime backers signing on with other candidates — most notably former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has assembled a mammoth fundraising operation far earlier than many expected.
Christie’s team doesn’t expect to match Bush’s fundraising, but they’re confident they will have the money to compete. They’ve also started to frame Christie as an underdog fighting against Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, and his family’s longstanding network of donors.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Ray Washburne, the finance chairman of Christie’s political action committee and the former finance chief at the Republican National Committee. “I didn’t leave the RNC thinking I was going to get on a dead horse.”
Also Friday, Christie aides released a list of more than 30 committed donors. While long, it lacks many of the superstars who’d previously been cheerleaders.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Christie has a “bigger-than-life personality” and Bush would “be a player, too.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s the anointed one, though,” he said. “And it doesn’t mean that Christie is not going to be able to get out there and do his own thing.”