Back in Iowa, Christie Finds He Faces Tough Road Ahead

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is facing new pressures in Iowa, a state where some already view him as too moderate for socially conservative caucus voters.

Many of Christie’s competitors for the Republican presidential nomination appealed to Iowa caucus-goers earlier this month, when freshman Sen. Joni Ernst’s “roast and ride” arrived in Boone.

Christie, however, was not among them. He returned to Iowa for the first time in three months last week. It’s not clear anyone had missed him.

But that doesn’t seem to worry Christie.

“I’ve always been received extraordinarily well here,” Christie said. “I suspect if I decide to go forward, you’ll see me a lot more once my legislature goes out of session June 30.”

During a two-day swing through the state, Christie delivered an education speech, stopped at a popular restaurant, addressed a county GOP dinner and held the first of his signature town-hall style meetings.

Blaming his absence on duties in New Jersey, Christie said he did not believe others had gained ground since he was last in Iowa in March. It was an argument that made sense to Sherill Whisenand, co-chairman of the Republican Party of Polk County, which held the dinner where Christie spoke Thursday evening.

“We could grouse about how we never see him Iowa, but the truth his he’s got a job and we understand that,” Whisenand said.

At that dinner, Christie drew laughter and applause from more than 100 people crowded in a hotel ballroom as he talked about his upbringing and touted his executive experience and direct style.

“You’ll never have to say ‘I wonder how he’s thinking,’” Christie said. He told the crowd that they could expect “no surprises, no games, none of that.”

Christie sounded increaszingly like a candidate during his visit. On Thursday, he announced his most trusted government aide, Maria Comella, would be leaving to join his political action committee — the surest sign yet that he is ready to jump into a race.