Iowa donors court Chris Christie for presidential bid

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Getty Images.Mandel Ngan

In an inversion of standard Iowa political proceedings, top Republican donors in the state are courting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to jump into the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, according to the Associated Press.

Traditionally, it is presidential hopefuls who seek the support of powerful local political operators - particularly in Iowa, a crucial early-nominating state. But this year, citing dissatisfaction with the current field of Republicans, a handful of influential donors are hoping to recruit a candidate who they think would stand a better chance against President Obama in the 2012 election.

According to the AP, a group of about seven Iowa Republicans, whom the AP characterizes as "business conservatives who favor nominees more identified with the philosophy of low taxes and limited government than with cultural issues," will meet with Christie in the New Jersey governor's mansion on May 31.

"There isn't anyone like Chris Christie on the national scene for Republicans," said one of the donors, Iowa energy executive Bruce Rastetter, in an interview with the AP. "And so we believe that he, or someone like him, running for president is very important at this critical time in our country."

"He clearly understands smaller government, less government spending, job creation, and how to create a better education system - certainly, all the things I and those accompanying me care about," Rastetter added, praising Christie's "blunt, direct leadership style."

Christie, who was elected New Jersey governor in November 2009, has risen to prominence within the GOP for his brash, unapologetic style of governing and his eagerness to tackle New Jersey's troubled economy through a series of controversial budget-slashing measures. (He has also been adamant about taking on public-sector unions in the state, calling for drastic cuts to their pension and health care benefits as a means by which to rein in the New Jersey budget.)

Despite seemingly near-constant questioning about his presidential intentions, however, the first-time governor has said repeatedly that he will not run in 2012.

"I have people calling me and saying to me, 'Let me explain to you how you could win.' And I'm like, 'You're barking up the wrong tree. I already know I could win,'" Christie saidin a March interview. "That's not the issue... I see the opportunity both at the primary level and at the general election level. I see the opportunity. But I've got to believe I'm ready to be president, and I don't. "

Christie is not Iowa Republicans' first target in the effort to recruit additional players to the GOP's presidential field: According to the AP, former state party chairman Steve Grubbs has entreated Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to join the race. (Daniels has not yet announced his decision.)

The urge to enlist additional GOP candidates to run for president reflects what some Republicans see as a relatively weak Republican field so far.

"There is a feeling that more candidates of greater renown should be in the contest," GOP consultant Mary Matalin said. "We all want Reagan, but need to remember that the source of Reagan's power and popularity was his ideas and philosophy."