Christie heading to S.C. for town hall

Published 9:13 am Tuesday, June 2, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will travel to South Carolina for the first time in nearly five months on today, part of a two-day swing through the state that’s likely aimed as much at gathering information as it is about campaigning.

The trip kicks off a busy month of travel for the potential 2016 Republican presidential contender, who says he is still considering his options and will announce a decision on whether to run for president by the end of the month.

“I think you have to assume this (trip) is a, ‘How will I be received? Is it viable? Is there enough interest to make some kind of play here?’” said Chip Felkel, a longtime Republican consultant in the state who isn’t yet committed to a 2016 candidate.

Email newsletter signup

So far, Christie and his team appear to have invested little in the state. They have no staffers on the ground or consultants on the payroll, said Samantha Smith, a spokeswoman for Christie’s political action committee.

Christie’s last visit was in January, when he attended Gov. Nikki Haley’s inauguration. In the meantime, the other potential and declared 2016 candidates have made frequent visits and have growing organizations, said Matt Moore, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.

“There’s certainly a lot of work to be done to build out the kind of organization that’s needed to be successful in the state’s primary,” he said.

After a stop this morning in Florida to speak at an economic forum, Christie will travel to Columbia for a meet-and-greet at a bar, followed by a reception hosted by an old college friend who has been serving as Christie’s informal liaison in the state.

On Wednesday, Christie will hold his first town hall event outside of New Hampshire, a breakfast-time gathering at Tommy’s Country Ham House in Greenville, before taking a walking tour of small businesses in the city’s downtown with a member of the city council.

State Rep. Phyllis Henderson, a fan of Christie who has yet to commit to him or any other candidate, said she thought Christie’s style of campaigning — with lots of opportunity for personal interaction — would help set him apart in a crowded field. The state’s senior U.S. senator, Lindsey Graham, got into the race on Monday.

“I think they’re looking to build it from the ground up and not with the traditional party activists,” she said, adding that, with 15 or 16 candidates all competing, “you’ve got to find the new people.”