The Washington Post

Christie to meet with prominent GOP donors at Florida event


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). (John Gress/ Reuters)

TRENTON, N.J. --- Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will meet with over 100 wealthy Republican donors on Sunday afternoon in Florida. Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, will host the private gathering.

“I’m having to turn people away,” Langone, a longtime Christie supporter, said in an interview. The conclave, he added, will be the first major meeting of Christie’s national fundraising circle since Christie was reelected last year.

“The level of enthusiasm among donors has never wavered,” Langone said. “2016 is going to be a very exciting election and I’ve never seen a higher level of interest among people to come and meet the governor.”

Christie’s appearance with the group of business leaders, many of who own winter homes in the Sunshine State, will come at the tail end of his weekend trip to bolster Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R),who is up for reelection next year. Christie is currently chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

“There has been positive, pro-active feedback,” Mike DuHaime, Christie’s political strategist, said on Tuesday when asked about donors’ response to Christie’s recent troubles. According to documents released last week, several of Christie’s top advisers were involved last year in causing a massive days-long traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J.

Langone said Sunday’s affair would be casual, and it will not be a fundraising event. Rather, it will be a time for Christie to personally connect with prominent Republican supporters from the financial and political communities.

Langone arranged a similar confab in 2011 when he was wooing Christie to enter the 2012 Republican presidential primary. As Dan Balz reported in his book, Collision 2012, Henry Kissinger attended that meeting and industrialist David Koch participated via speakerphone. The location and list of attendees for this weekend’s affair are being kept private.

As Christie mingles over cocktails with the power brokers on Sunday, televisions will be turned to the NFL’s American Football Conference championship game, which pits the Denver Broncos against the New England Patriots. Langone described the setting as a mix of cocktails, football, and conversations about Christie’s future.

“I think this focus on the bridge will turn out to be a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Leadership is about making tough decisions and the people who wanted [Christie] to run before still think he’s a serious contender.”

A Pew Research Center poll from earlier this week found that 69 percent of Republicans have not changed their opinion on Christie amidst the revelations. “Among Republicans, about as many say their opinion has become more favorable (9 percent) as less favorable (10 percent),” according to their analysis.

 

Robert Costa is a national political reporter at The Washington Post.

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