Chris Christie is the Republican governor of New Jersey. He's also the chairman of the Republican Governors Association -- which may be a more important title this year when it comes to his presidential prospects.
Christie's chairmanship, as expected, has enabled him to barnstorm the country ahead of the midterm elections. He's attended RGA events in 34 states since taking over as chairman last November, including stops in crucial early nominating states like New Hampshire and Iowa. And he's raised a whopping $75 million for the RGA through the middle of September.
On Wednesday, Christie kicked off a three-day, four-state swing that will take him from Florida to New England. At a time when the governor is trying to repair his troubled image -- and with the dawn of the 2016 presidential race fast approaching -- his path to political recovery may run through his flurry of campaign stops.
"He's going to build up a lot of chits and a lot of good will in a lot of key states," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.
Christie is stumping for Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) in West Palm Beach and Miami Wednesday afternoon before heading to Pennsylvania to try to rescue unpopular Gov. Tom Corbett (R) on Thursday. On Friday, Christie will campaign for two New England gubernatorial underdogs: Walt Havenstein in New Hampshire and Allan Fung in Rhode Island.
His RGA position has done more than provide the political boost many expected -- in many ways, it's helped serve as a political lifeline.
For the last two years, Christie has been on a political roller coaster that could be starting to level out. After overwhelmingly winning reelection in 2013, he was the hottest ticket in the Republican Party, viewed by many as the frontrunner for the 2016 nomination -- at least, before his momentum was sharply curtailed by the "Bridgegate" scandal that erupted late last year in which former aides and appointees snarled traffic in an apparent act of political retribution.
WNBC of New York reported last month that a federal probe into the bridge scandal has so far found no link to the governor. If that's what investigators ultimately conclude, Christie could be poised to end the darkest chapter of his political career.
Not having the bridge episode “hanging over his head puts him back where he started from,” Iowa-based GOP strategist Chuck Laudner told The Post's Robert Costa in September. “He’s still a rock star and a compelling guy, even if he is too moderate for some conservatives. We’re glad he’s on our team.”
For Christie, being a regular on the campaign trail and hauling in cash from donors in a cycle when Republicans are trying to defend the gubernatorial gains they made in the GOP wave election of 2010 has made him a central figure among the donors and activists he will need to woo once again if he runs for president.
The governor has been a familiar face in the states that go first in the presidential nominating process. He was in Iowa last week to stump for Gov. Terry Branstad (R). In New Hampshire, he endorsed Havenstein in a contested Republican primary.
Christie will keep up an "aggressive" campaign schedule between now and Nov. 4, said RGA spokesman Jon Thompson. Thompson did not specify where the governor will go.
Christie still has some high hurdles to clear -- starting with the deep skepticism many conservative activists still hold about him. Bridgegate took its toll on his national image. And Democrats and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a potential Christie opponent, have made it clear they won't let him live down the saga.
But at a time when Christie is asking the party faithful for a second look, helping Republicans keep their jobs or win more powerful ones in November is his best hope for winning or reclaiming good will.
"He was on life support. Now he's walking on two legs," said O'Connell.