His political future clouded by scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pressed ahead on a national fundraising tour Thursday, but kept a low profile during a brief Boston appearance that attracted GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and intense criticism from Democrats.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who maintains an office in Boston, and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker were among those who joined Christie at a private dinner reception at a downtown hotel. Neither Baker nor Romney appeared publicly with Christie, although both have expressed support for the New Jersey governor facing dual investigations for his administration’s decision to clog traffic along the George Washington Bridge last fall apparently to punish a political adversary.
Democrats aggressively tried to link the New Jersey scandal to Baker’s candidacy.
It’s the same playbook that Democrats used for Christie’s recent trips to Florida, Texas and Illinois, and one they plan to employ for upcoming events in Georgia, Connecticut, Utah and Michigan as Christie raises money as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
“It’s an embarrassment to have Gov. Christie in Massachusetts today,” said Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., in a conference call arranged by Democrats before Christie’s arrival.
New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell condemned Christie’s aggressive travel schedule, which is part of a larger effort to strengthen his political network ahead of a prospective presidential campaign. “Christie’s made a big mess and he should be in New Jersey cleaning it up,” he said.
The Republican Governors Association announced that the Boston event raised approximately $1 million.
Romney’s attendance was designed to highlight his support for Christie, whose endorsement during the 2012 campaign helped Romney secure the GOP presidential nomination. But the pair has a complicated relationship.
Many Romney loyalists still resent Christie’s embrace of President Barack Obama after Superstorm Sandy devastated the New Jersey coast in the final weeks of the 2012 presidential contest.
And former Romney donors privately report that lingering resentments have been exacerbated by Christie’s recent struggles. Establishment-minded donors who initially viewed Christie as the early 2016 frontrunner have become more willing to look elsewhere, although few minds are set with the beginning of the 2016 race still months away.
“There’s never been bad blood between the two governors,” said former Romney adviser Ron Kaufman. “People around the candidates tend to take these things more personally than the governors themselves.”
Organizers announced that Christie would be in Boston Thursday, but refused to disclose the time or location until after the event was over.
Christie’s team has limited his interactions with the press since internal documents released in early January tied senior aides to the lane closures. The often-outspoken governor has denied personal involvement, but refused to answer questions during a Washington gathering of governors over the weekend and skipped a Monday press conference hosted the Republican Governors Association.
But he has added to his national travel schedule, which is designed to raise money for the RGA and showcase his continued fundraising appeal. Under Christie’s leadership, the RGA raised $6 million in January, $1 million more than the same period last year.
RGA executive director Phil Cox said Christie has another 10 to 12 fundraising trips planned over the next three months.
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