Christie allies, foes lay 2016 groundwork

Coming off of a smashing reelection victory on Tuesday night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) staff and supporters — and potential opponents — are already beginning to lay the groundwork for a 2016 presidential campaign.

On Wednesday, a group of unofficial supporters launched a super-PAC to support Christie's potential bid. And the governor's regional political director, Matt Mowers, was just hired as the executive director of the GOP in New Hampshire, which holds the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. 

The super-PAC, "Ready for Christie," echoes the name of one launched by supporters of Hillary Clinton working to pave the way for the former secretary of State to launch a 2016 bid. That effort is called “Ready for Hillary.”

But unlike the Clinton super-PAC, Ready for Christie appears to have no backing from big-name Christie supporters or Republican donors. It was launched by “Midwestern supporters" of Christie, according to a release, including "multimedia arts professional" Joe Colby and former congressional aide Matt McKnight. The two appear to be college students in Ohio.

The release stated the purpose of the PAC is “to make [the presidential] decision easier for Governor Christie,” but the group did not respond to requests for further information.

Mowers, who managed Christie’s campaign in eight New Jersey counties, now heads up the New Hampshire GOP. His position cements Christie’s ties to a state that plays an outsized role in deciding the GOP nominee.  

A spokesman for the state party dismissed the suggestion that Mowers’s post would give Christie a particular advantage in the state, or that Christie’s presidential aspirations had anything to do with the appointment.

“Matt got the job because he was the most qualified candidate for the position,” New Hampshire GOP spokesman Ryan Williams told The Associated Press. “The New Hampshire Republican Party always stays neutral in every race. We’re focused on winning in 2014, not the presidential race in 2016.”

Potential presidential contenders have already begun to visit the state.

And just two days after his win, Christie’s already feeling the weight of the target on his back. He has taken hits from both Democrats and Republicans who see him now as the Republican to beat, following his impressive victory over Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono.

Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, warned on a conference call with reporters that Christie’s significant personal popularity following Hurricane Sandy is “not transferable and it's not sustainable” for other Republican races, or for Christie’s political future.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a likely GOP primary opponent, knocked Christie — without mentioning him by name — during a Wednesday hearing on Sandy recovery efforts.

He highlighted ads the state ran touting Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts and urging visitors to come to the shore, which were funded partially with recovery dollars but ran during the campaign and featured Christie.

That prompted criticism that they were an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars and amounted to free campaign advertising for the governor.

“Some of these ads, people running for office put their mug all over these ads while they’re in the middle of a political campaign,” Paul said.

But Christie’s campaign dismissed the attacks.

“I don’t make too much of it,” top adviser Mike DuHaime told The Hill.

“We’re very happy with the victory, especially by such a significant margin in such a blue state.”

DuHaime said Christie’s going to go back to focusing on his second term as governor, and isn’t concerned about what others have said. Asked what he thought Christie’s motives might be, however, he demurred.

“I'm not going to psychoanalyze them,” DuHaime said.