Despite his single-digit poll numbers and the dominance of another tough-talking candidate, Chris Christie is hearing a clear message from influential Republicans in the early voting states of New Hampshire and Iowa: Keep going.
What he’s not hearing are enough commitments.
With Donald Trump still commanding the field and several other rivals apparently rising, the New Jersey governor has been quietly chugging along, holding nearly 30 town hall meetings in New Hampshire.
“Maybe he’s the tortoise in this race,” said Donna Sytek, a former speaker of the New Hampshire House whose support Christie is courting heavily. “He’s authentic. He’s not scripted. He’ll tell you a story from his own experience that illustrates these serious issues.”
After he visited her hometown of Salem, Sytek told Christie he is in her “top three.” She received a text from Christie that he’d prefer to be her No. 1.
Still, Sytek hasn’t committed. She’s received phone calls from Jeb Bush, attended several events with Carly Fiorina and likes Marco Rubio and John Kasich.
This is Christie’s conundrum. Many top Republicans in early states are urging him to stick with it, but few are willing right now to give him endorsements that could bring credibility and momentum to his campaign.
Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard, who joined Christie in July, said he’s lobbying other law enforcement members to get behind Christie. Over lunch recently, he handed Christie a list of names and numbers and Christie began calling them.
“The governor’s ready to work for it,” Hilliard said.
Beverly Bruce, Mitt Romney’s 2012 finance director in the state, held a house party for Christie in late August. She’s not signing on with anyone yet but said that crowd gave him positive reviews.
“Very influential people were very impressed with the thoughtfulness and thoroughness from the answers of the questions that were asked,” she said. “People came up to him and to me and said, ‘He’s got my support.’”