NJ Gov. Christie to be in Iowa and 2016 spotlight

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NJ Gov. Christie to be in Iowa and 2016 spotlight
Former President Bill Clinton, right, shakes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's hand as he arrives on stage during the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Meeting in Chicago, Friday, June 14, 2013. Clinton and Christie spoke during a closing session titled "Cooperation and Collaboration: A Conversation on Leadership." (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)
In this July 15, 2014, photo, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reacts to host Jon Stewart during a taping of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," in New York. As Clinton promotes her book, liberals in the Democratic party are elbowing into the 2016 presidential conversation while pitching populist messages on the economy and immigration. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with reporters at the National Governors Association convention Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, talks with members of the media at the National Governors Association convention Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton speaks at the World Bank May 14, 2014 in Washington, DC. Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton joined others to speak about women's rights. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Tuesday, June 24, 2014, file photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering after he signed into law a bill that would extend the cap on arbitration awards to New Jersey's police and firefighters in front of the Statehouse Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in Trenton. Gov. Chris Christie's administration is facing an investigation into how it paid for a $1 billion repair of a New Jersey bridge. Two people said the investigation deals with whether funding for Pulaski Skyway repairs was misrepresented in bond documents by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smiles as she speaks at an event at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP Photo)
BELMAR, NJ - MARCH 25: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a Town Hall Meeting with families affected by Superstorm Sandy at Belmar Borough Municipal Building on March 25, 2014 in Belmar, New Jersey. Christie talked about some of the programs the state is running for homeowners, as well as efforts to build and restore dunes along the coast this spring,The governor was not asked about the George Washington Bridge lane-closure (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton waves to the media after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, speaks while former President Bill Clinton listens during the Clinton Global Initiative America's meeting, Friday, June 14, 2013, in Chicago. Clinton and Christie held a closing session titled "Cooperation and Collaboration: A Conversation on Leadership." (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 11: Martin Edlund (L) and Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attend Malaria No More's International Honors Gala honoring Hilary Clinton on November 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Malaria No More 2013)
BELMAR, NJ - MARCH 25: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a Town Hall Meeting with families affected by Superstorm Sandy at Belmar Borough Municipal Building on March 25, 2014 in Belmar, New Jersey. Christie talked about some of the programs the state is running for homeowners, as well as efforts to build and restore dunes along the coast this spring,The governor was not asked about the George Washington Bridge lane-closure (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gestures as he listens to a question as he addresses a gathering at Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center in Bridgewater, N.J., Wednesday, April 11, 2012. Days after returning from a trip to Israel, Christie met with Jewish leaders in New Jersey. Christie was in Jerusalem during Holy Week for a trade mission and tour. He then traveled to Jordan with his family before returning home on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
KEANSBURG, NJ - FEBRUARY 04: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a press conference with families affected by Superstorm Sandy at a lounge in the New Point Comfort Fire Company on February 4, 2014 in Keansburg, New Jersey. Christie, whose governorship is being threatened by a scandal is facing federal investigation over use of Sandy funds. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 06: Hillary Rodham Clinton, former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and First Lady of the United States, arrives for the presentation of the German translation of her book 'Hard Choices' ('Entscheidungen' in German) at the Staatsoper in the Schiller Theater on July 6, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
EWING, NJ - OCTOBER 30: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie updates members of the media on damage and recovery efforts related to Hurricane Sandy from the emergency operations center at State Police Headquarters on October 30, 2012 in Ewing, New Jersey. High winds and a massive storm surge caused major destruction to the Jersey Shore and throughout the Garden State. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 29: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie laughs while speaking during the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on March 29, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waits to speak at the World Bank May 14, 2014 in Washington, DC. Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim joined others to speak about women's rights. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat Christie look on during the regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament between the Connecticut Huskies and the Iowa State Cyclones at Madison Square Garden on March 28, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
BELMAR, NJ - MARCH 25: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie laughs during a Town Hall Meeting with families affected by Superstorm Sandy at Belmar Borough Municipal Building on March 25, 2014 in Belmar, New Jersey. Christie talked about some of the programs the state is running for homeowners, as well as efforts to build and restore dunes along the coast this spring,The governor was not asked about the George Washington Bridge lane-closure (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrives with France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the Quai d'Orsay, in Paris, Monday, July 7, 2014. The former U.S. secretary of state was in Paris or the publication in France of her book “Hard Choices” which recounts her four years running American diplomacy. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius offered a reception in her honor. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton bows in response to Vannak Anan Prum of Cambodia, before presenting him with a plaque for his work to end human trafficking, during the release of the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, June 19, 2012. Prum was held captive on a Thai fishing boat from 2005 to 2009 in slave-like conditions. He escaped by jumping overboard and swimming four kilometers off of Malaysian Borneo. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative America's meeting in Chicago, Friday, June 14, 2013, as former President Bill Clinton listens. Christie is walking a political tightrope as he charts his future, trying to balancer his re-election campaign in a Democratic-leaning state with a potential presidential bid aimed at winning over Republicans. Clinton and Christie held a closing session titled "Cooperation and Collaboration: A Conversation on Leadership." (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds her new book "Hard Choices" before a book signing at Northshire Bookstore on Tuesday, July 29, 2014, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Clinton is making selected stops to promote her book about her four years heading the State Department under President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives to a signing of her book "Hard Choices", Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Ridgewood, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
FILE - This June 20, 2014, file photo shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority form in Washington. In advance of a potential 2016 presidential run, Christie has embraced a new signature issue, blasting the war on drugs as a trillion-dollar “failure.” He used his first major speech in front of an Evangelical conservative audience to again hammer the need for treatment over mass incarceration. (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - New Jersey's Chris Christie insists it's his role as Republican Governors Association chairman that's bringing him to Iowa this week, to raise money for other politicians, including Gov. Terry Branstad, a five-term incumbent with lots of campaign cash already.

Iowa, of course, is an important early-voting state in the presidential nominating calendar. But Christie told The Associated Press, "I'm not gearing up to run up for president. I'm gearing up to win as many governor's races as I can this November and then we'll make decisions about running for president after that."

Branstad, for one, doesn't need Christie's fundraising help. Branstad is sitting on $4 million in his campaign account and has outraised his little-known Democratic challenger by 10-to-1 this year.

In truth, there's much more to Christie's scheduled visit Thursday for the embattled governor and potential 2016 White House contender, and for Iowa.

For Christie, the trip will mark a return to the type of public politics for which he was so well known before allegations of a political payback scandal at home enveloped him and prompted a self-imposed lower public profile.

Christie's full day of events holds the promise of bringing wide attention to Iowa's 2016 presidential caucuses, so central to the state's national identity.

For Christie, the visit should convey a clear message to activists and donors that he considers himself politically viable, even amid continuing investigations in New Jersey.

"What helps him the most is the fact that he's doing a good job as chairman of the RGA, keeping his nose to that," said Ron Kaufman, a Republican national committeeman and adviser to 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney. "That's what helps him later on."

Allegations in January that members of Christie's administration ordered traffic lanes to be closed on the George Washington Bridge linking New Jersey and New York undermined what had been a triumphant re-election in November and his ascension in December to the RGA post.

The voluble Christie had until recently kept an unusually lower profile while he traveled the country raising tens of millions for the RGA.

Last month he began to re-emerge, visiting New Hampshire, the first-voting presidential primary state. He plans to return later this month.

But Wednesday, he said during an interview that aired on CNBC that he was far from decided about 2016.

"I'm going to be very deliberative about this," he said. "It's pretty nice to be asked. It's enormously flattering. But being flattered isn't enough of a reason to run."

Christie's busy day in Iowa was to include fundraisers for Iowa GOP officials, a stop at a Cedar Rapids restaurant and a state fair-type rally in the evening in Davenport.

Back home, however, his incoming chief of staff, Regina Egea, was to testify before a legislative committee about the bridge scandal.

Branstad, speaking in general about that issue, said, "Unless something else comes out we're not aware of, I don't think that's what's going to be a significant issue going forward."

Branstad was quick to praise other governors considering 2016 candidacies, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who hosted a fundraiser for him in Florida in May, and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Texas' Rick Perry and Wisconsin's Scott Walker. All but Bush have visited Iowa in the past 18 months.

With roughly 18 months more until Iowa's 2016 caucuses, the early movements have passed without much fanfare.

That could change Thursday, given that more than 50 reporters and news media representatives had requested credentials to cover Christie's visit.

Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have visited Iowa most often. Paul has three workers in place, while no others have full-time operatives in the state yet.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee, have been to Iowa at least twice over that period.

After Thursday, Bush will be the only better-known Republican not to have visited Iowa since the 2012 election. He is hosting a fundraiser in Florida for Iowa's GOP Senate nominee, Joni Ernst, in September.

In 2011, some Iowa Republicans came to New Jersey and tried to recruit Christie for the 2012 presidential race. Renewable fuels entrepreneur Bruce Rastetter, who led that effort, said he will attend Christie's Thursday events, but is "considering a number of folks" for 2016.

Christie annoyed some conservatives in 2012 by embracing President Barack Obama during Obama's visit to New Jersey's storm-ravaged seashore. Also, some Iowa social conservatives reject Christie for supporting civil unions between same-sex couples.

Christie is the target this week of Internet ads that are attacking his judicial nominees as "liberal."

Branstad has worked to expand Iowa's Republican base beyond the socially and libertarian conservatives who have held sway recently, and that could bode well for Christie.

"There is more growth among younger activists in the pragmatic conservative camp," said a would-be supporter, John Stineman, 42, of West Des Moines.

New Poll Shows Iowa Doesn't Love Chris Christie
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