Chris Christie has spent more time in New Hampshire than any major candidate running for president.
His local focus has been by necessity as much as by choice, but it may pay off.
Polls show him gaining traction, and as Christie told the crowd that joined him at an Exeter auto repair shop as he launched a 4-day bus tour, he believes he’s bonded with voters here.
“People told me this was going to happen if you decided to run for president and you came to New Hampshire and spend time here. People told me that you would begin to develop a closeness with the people of this state that you wouldn’t be able to even understand when you first arrived, and it’s happened.”
Christie’s campaign packed the stage at Exeter with key local backers.
The candidate’s 4 children were there; so was his wife and his father.
As a camera on a boom crane swooped overhead shooting footage for future campaign ads, Christie dug at his rivals.
"We are not picking a legislator in chief. We are not picking an entertainer in chief, we are not casting a TV show. This is real."
The New Jersey governor then offered a metaphor for his candidacy, and the 2016 GOP primary. Christie likened others in the race to brand new trucks, untested and unmuddied. Christie, meanwhile, pitched himself as a little dinged up, comfortable getting dirty, and capable of slogging through a tough media environment.
"The old truck is one that’s tested by that; and the old truck that they thought they got stuck in the mud, got out of the mud again and here I am. Here I am."
Christie’s argument, that he’s capable of weathering hard times and leading, seemed to persuade Retiree Marcia Consindine. She lives in North Hampton and says she first saw Christie back in June. She says she’s convinced he’s the candidate who best understands what republican voters want.
“He knows we are all angry and fearful Americans and he’s hoping to be able to change that, and he has proven, especially with Hurricane Sandy, he was right there.”
Right there with Christie all day long yesterday was Maine Governor Paul LePage.
As chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, Christie helped Le Page win a reelection many doubted possible.
"So If Chris is President, I’m going to ask him to be ambassador to Canada in the summer and Jamaica in the winter."
LePage, who was glad-handing voters at a Derry tavern, last campaigned here with Christie in September. He says it’s impossible not to see that Christie’s fortunes, at least in New Hampshire, have improved.
"Big time. Totally different this time around."
Chris Christie resumes his bus tour today with stops in Manchester, and Peterborough.
He’ll be joined by another governor he backed as RGA chairman, Larry Hogan of Maryland.