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Only one GOP candidate has completely snubbed Iowa so far: Chris Christie

Christie hasn't set foot in the first caucus state yet, instead going with a New Hampshire-focused strategy that illustrates how different the two states can be.
Chris Christie during a campaign event in Concord, N.H.,
Chris Christie during a campaign event in Concord, N.H., on July 24. Charles Krupa / AP file

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has become a regular sight all over New Hampshire. He’s spent some time in South Carolina, too, since announcing his 2024 bid for president. But there is one notable state that he has completely skipped so far: Iowa. 

Iowa’s caucuses traditionally lead off the fight for the GOP presidential nomination, bringing heavy attention to the state from contenders. This year, Iowa will kick off the delegate race on Jan. 15. As a result, every Republican presidential candidate has visited the Hawkeye State so far this year — except Christie.

When asked (during a recent trip to New Hampshire) why he hasn’t gone to Iowa yet, Christie told NBC News, “I haven’t gone because I haven’t wanted to. And if I want to, I’ll go sometime later.” 

Christie’s strategy of spending more time in New Hampshire than Iowa is not new. That’s what he did during his first run for president — though not to the same extreme degree.

The former governor was in Iowa for 32 days and did 71 stops between Jan. 1, 2015, and Feb. 1, 2016, according to NBC News’ tracking of his events. Meanwhile, Christie spent 75 days in New Hampshire and made 175 stops there during the same time period.

Since July 4 of this year, Christie has spent six days in New Hampshire and had 11 events open to the press, according to NBC News’ tracker. 

It only somewhat paid off. Christie finished 10th in Iowa, with 1.8% of the GOP caucus vote, but got sixth place in New Hampshire the next week, with 7.4% of the vote. Still, that wasn’t enough to stay in the 2016 race — he dropped out the day after New Hampshire’s primary.

Two presidential elections later, Christie’s standing in Iowa is still significantly lower than in New Hampshire, according to public polling. Christie’s average share in the last 10 Iowa caucus polls in the FiveThirtyEight database is 3%. In the last 10 New Hampshire primary polls, Christie is averaging 9% support.

Historically, moderate Republican candidates tend to spend less time in Iowa and more in New Hampshire, where independents have traditionally played a major role in the open primary. The number of self-described moderates in NBC News’ 2016 exit polling was twice as high in New Hampshire as it was in Iowa.

And in 2015 and 2016, Jeb Bush and Christie were examples of candidates who spent less time in Iowa than more conservative Republican candidates. Bush made 50 stops in Iowa over 27 days. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, he made 110 stops over 55 days, according to NBC News’ tracking of his events. 

On the other hand, Ben Carson, one of the candidates campaigning for more conservative support in 2016, made 100 stops in Iowa over 44 days, compared with 37 stops in New Hampshire over 16 days. Sen. Ted Cruz made 138 stops in Iowa over 47 days, versus 67 stops in New Hampshire over 32 days, according to NBC News’ tracking of their events. 

“Look, I’ve got to decide where to best spend my time,” Christie told NBC News. “Everyone has a limited time, I’ve decided that I want to spend my time in New Hampshire and South Carolina. I think those are the places that give you the best opportunity to do well.”

There is one thing that could really tempt Christie to visit Iowa this election cycle: former President Donald Trump. 

Christie has said if Trump does not participate in any of the debates, he is “going to follow Trump around the country.” 

When asked by a reporter if he would follow Trump to Iowa, Christie said, “That’s interesting. That could be. It’s a good question. If I knew I could catch him there — yeah, I probably would.” 

Even though Christie has not visited the Hawkeye State, he has also said “anybody” would consider Iowa’s Governor Kim Reynolds as their running mate.

“[I’ve] known her for a long time. I like Kim lot,” Christie said during a town hall hosted by SiriusXM’s Steve Scully at New England College. “She’s got practical experience and she’s someone who I think has the capabilities, if she wanted to be president, to be president.”