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Christie heading back to Iowa to court agribusiness magnate Bruce Rastetter (again)

Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, on the left, chats with J. Bruce Harreld, the new University of Iowa president, at a news conference last week in Iowa City. (David Scrivner/Iowa City Press-Citizen via AP)

This story has been updated.

In 2011, agribusiness millionaire Bruce Rastetter chartered a private airplane to bring a group of prominent Iowans to New Jersey in an effort to convince Chris Christie to jump into the presidential race.

Christie -- at the peak of his popularity, and unburdened by the Bridgegate scandal -- turned down their pleas.

Now it is Christie seeking Rastetter’s support. He’s flying to Iowa for at least the third time this year to court the influential Iowa hog and soybean farming magnate.

On Sept. 28, he will go to Alden, a town of 800 people that is 75 miles outside of Des Moines, to do a town hall meeting at the offices of Rastetter’s company, the Summit Agricultural Group.

Rastetter is publicly neutral. He hosted a town hall for Carly Fiorina last month.

The Christie event has not previously been reported, but an invitation was obtained by The Washington Post from an Iowa tipster.

It seems to be the latest play by the New Jersey governor, struggling to get oxygen and traction in the crowded GOP field, to court the establishment-aligned GOP donor.

He flew out in March for Rastetter’s Iowa Agriculture Summit, where he pledged his support for the Renewable Fuel Standard to support ethanol and crop insurance while speaking out against the labeling of genetically-modified foods. These positions align with Rastetter's.

Then Christie flew back to the state to attend a closed-press summer party at Rastetter’s home at the start of August.

Christie also made what appeared to be a hard play for Rastetter’s support when he vetoed a bill late last year that would have prohibited pregnant pigs from being held in cages called gestation stalls that limit their ability to turn around, lie down, or extend their limbs. It polled very well in New Jersey, but hog farmers in Iowa hated it. Christie’s decision was widely covered at the time as pandering.

Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, whose campaigns Rastetter has supported financially, appointed him to run the Iowa University system’s Board of Regents.

The mailer inviting guests to the 5:30 p.m. CT event says it was paid for by Rastetter and authorized by the Christie campaign.

A Christie spokeswoman declined to comment or what else the candidate might do while in the Hawkeye State, saying there was “nothing yet to announce.”

A Quinnipiac University poll published Friday showed that Christie is tied for 12th place, pulling just 1 percent of the vote among likely caucus-goers. The poll found 14 percent of likely caucus-goers said they would definitely not support Christie, the third highest figure, behind Jeb Bush and Donald Trump.