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(MARION, Iowa) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie returned to Iowa for the first time in two years Thursday, launching what looked like his campaign before the campaign in the state that gets the first crack at sizing up political candidates.
He insisted he has made no decision about his political future and that although he appreciated the rousing reception, it wouldn’t factor into his decision to run for president.
“The decision to seek the presidency or not is such a deeply personal one,” Christie told reporters. “While it’s wonderful to get as much encouragement as I got inside here and in other places in Iowa, to consider running I’ve said the same thing to everyone: I’ll decide at some point whether I’m going to or not, but that’s a really personal decision.”
He stopped at a local diner and was greeted by a standing-room-only crowd of Iowans and reporters. Voters clamored to shake his hand, get an autograph, or pose for a photograph.
Introducing himself as “Chris” to some of the patrons, he told them he was “happy to be back.” Another woman shook his hand and told him she was thrilled to “meet the next president.”
A teenager asked Christie to sign a baseball and eagerly told him, “I will be 18 and a half in 2016 and you’ll get my vote.” Christie thanked him before taking a selfie with the boy.
Afterwards, Christie spoke to reporters but stayed clear of the big issues, although when asked by a voter about the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case he said he “supports” the decision. The ruling said for-profit businesses can opt out of the Obamacare requirement to provide contraceptives in their health plans if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
When asked about his views on the current immigration debate, he answered, “First off, I’m not going to discuss a complicated issue like immigration in a parking lot here in Marion.”
He added that it, “deserves a much deeper and thoughtful conversation” and blamed both parties for inaction on the issue.
On the current crisis in Israel and Gaza, he stayed vague, but said the president, “has not spoken up loudly, firmly, and clearly for Israel.”
Christie came to Iowa for a day of fundraisers with politicos and every day Iowans. As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie makes stops like these all over country, but his return to Iowa and what could be a testing of the 2016 waters may have given this trip greater significance, as well as scrutiny.
He attended a high-dollar breakfast fundraiser in the morning for the Republican Governors Association. About 40 donors at the event in a Des Moines suburb paid between $25,000 and $100,000 per head. He then traveled to Cedar Rapids for a fundraiser with Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, followed by the campaign-style meet-and-greet in Marion that Iowa voters are used to every four years. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who is running for re-election, was by his side the entire day, telling ABC News he enjoyed the early attention.
“I encourage people to come early and often and to spend a lot of time here,” Branstad said, noting it’s good for the state and its economy.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
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