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Perry Courts Top Iowa Supporters of Christie

Perry Courts Top Iowa Supporters of Christie

By Scott Conroy - August 23, 2011


Texas Gov. Rick Perry was scheduled to make a round of phone calls on Tuesday afternoon to a group of prominent Iowa Republican donors who have spent the past several months trying to persuade New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to enter the presidential race.

The phone conversations with Perry come as Christie remains unlikely to reconsider his often colorfully stated assertion that he has neither the desire nor the readiness to make a White House run – despite pleas from a wide swath of influential Republicans to change his mind.

Unless Christie reverses his posture dramatically in the coming days, at least one of the Iowa heavy hitters who made a late-May trek to the New Jersey governor’s mansion to try to woo him appears inclined to offer his allegiances to the Texan.

“Right now, it’s a wide open race and I haven’t seen anybody catch fire yet, but out of the chute, I think Perry is looking the best,” Des Moines businessman Gary Kirke, a member of the group that urged Christie to run, told RCP. “If I had to make a drop-dead decision today, I’d go for Perry.”

In addition to Kirke, Perry was also scheduled to make Tuesday afternoon calls to Iowa energy executive Bruce Rastetter and Michael Richards, a West Des Moines physician-turned-businessman.

Before making his initial plea to Christie, Kirke told RCP that he intended to appeal to the New Jersey governor’s sense of obligation to his country.

"I'll just speak from my heart and will try to let him know there's a call to duty like I've never seen before," Kirke said before making the trip to Princeton. "We have a lot of great guys that could be great candidates, but we don't have great campaigners. I think Christie could be both."

But when the Iowans returned from their dinner with Christie, they suggested that they had received no indication that the first-term governor would change his mind about entering the race.

As many establishment Republicans and Tea Party stalwarts have continued to look for a savior to emerge in what has been deemed a relatively weak GOP field, Christie’s name has never fallen far from the discussion, even amid his repeated vows that he would not run.

And with the recent reiteration by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan that he will stay out of the race, the Christie buzz ratcheted up again this month.

"I don’t know what else to say about this -- fact of the matter is, I guess I have to resign myself to the idea that until the filing deadline for Iowa passes that I’m going to continue to be asked," Christie told reporters in New Jersey in response to the latest murmurs. “I have a job to do here and I’m focused on my job here. I’m not focused on anything else."

If Perry succeeds in corralling some of the heavyweight Iowa backers of Christie, it will mark another significant sign of momentum for his quick-starting campaign in the nation’s first voting state.

A PPP survey released Tuesday showed Perry surging to a three-point lead in Iowa over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney-- who has thus far declined to heavily contest the state -- and a six-point lead over Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, whose Iowa campaign has been left in the shadow of the Perry juggernaut, even after her victory at the Ames Straw Poll. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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