New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s top political fundraiser says he began taking calls from Mitt Romney supporters early this morning and some are ready to switch to the Christie camp.
Ray Washburne, the finance director for Christie’s new political action committee, told NBC News he spent the morning on calls with top Romney donors beginning about three to four hours before Romney’s conference call exit from the 2016 field. Those donors said Romney had contacted them personally before his announcement freeing them to switch their financial support.
“Mitt had a lot of loyal soldiers,” Washburne said, “who were prepared to sit on the fence.” The Romney decision is significant as Christie begins building a war chest for his “Leadership Matters for America” PAC. Christie will ramp up his political travel in February. “We have a lot of stuff organized. There is a lot underway.”
Washburne suggested that some donors felt constrained by the uncertainty surrounding Romney’s future, “I think there was a lot of head faking going on that got a little frustrating for people.”
Christie sources point to his work as the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association as a sign of his potential to raise cash for his political travel. In that position, the governor has been credited with raising more than $100 million for Republican gubernatorial candidates. ”He laid a lot of good work. People knew him. They are excited about him," Washburne said.
The path to donors’ checks does cross Christie’s political potholes. Sources acknowledge that Republican donors ask about the so called “bridge-gate” scandal. One said, “Listen the bridge thing comes up constantly because that is what the press talks about the most.” Washburne said when those doubts are raised in fundraising circles, he responds that he believes Christie has been fully vetted and investigated.
In the establishment wing of the Republican party, Christie would compete with the multi-generational Bush donor network. While acknowledging the deep support for Jeb Bush that exists in those circles, Washburne noted that a Bush last ran for national office in 2004. “A lot of new people have come on the stage and on the donor side in eleven years," Washburne said.