New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's two-day trip to New Hampshire has sparked rumours that he is considering a 2016 presidential run. The embattled Republican Party governor, however, denied the campaign rumours to local media.
Christie's visit to the Granite State is the beginning of his comeback campaign as he tries to improve his image after months of scandals, weak poll numbers and fiscal problems in New Jersey.
On 14 April, Christie appeared at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St Anselm College calling for a radical overhaul of Social Security benefits. According to Politico, the governor proposed raising the retirement age to 69, reducing benefits for seniors earning over $80,000 (£53,908) and eliminating benefits entirely for those earning $200,000 and over.
"Washington is afraid to have an honest conversation about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid with the people of our country," Christie said. "I am not."
If Christie does decide to run in the 2016 presidential elections, his trip to New Hampshire will prove crucial. GOP strategist Jamie Burnett told Politico: "If there is anyone on the primary ballot for whom New Hampshire means everything, it's Chris Christie."
"It's too early and the race is too fluid to write anyone off this early, but Chris Christie has his work cut out for him; he's no longer in the position he was in a year ago where everyone thought he'd be the heavyweight in the race," Burnett continued.
The Republican will also have to work hard at garnering support in key swing states Colorado, Iowa and Virginia, a recent Quinnipiac University poll revealed. According to the poll, Christie trailed behind Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton 41% to 39% in Colorado and Iowa, and 46% to 40% in Virginia. Facing Clinton will not be Christie's only challenge, the GOP field already has three official candidates: Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
'I will not pander... I will tell the truth whether you like it or not'
Despite denying campaign rumours, Christie touted his leadership skills to the New Hampshire crowd. "Strong, decisive, honest leadership matters for America," he said. "I will not pander, I will not flip-flop, and I'll tell you the truth whether you like it or not."
According to the Washington Post, Christie's New Hampshire stop includes a town hall meeting in Londonderry. He is scheduled to return to the New England state on 17 April for the NHGOP's First-in-the-Nation Leadership Summit. The summit has reportedly attracted every declared candidate and likely GOP presidential contender, the Post reported.