Reporting from West Des Moines, Iowa — Newt Gingrich may have swamped Mitt Romney in recent polls, but Romney's surrogates are pressing ahead with a simple argument: Like him or not, Romney remains the most electable candidate in the Republican presidential field.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie argued Wednesday that even if Iowa Republicans don't agree with Romney on every issue, they ought to support him because he has the best chance of defeating President Obama.
"He is the only person who I believe can legitimately take the fight to Barack Obama this November," he said. "As Republicans, we know we love our party, but I will tell you if you're looking for a candidate who agrees with you on everything, buy a mirror because that's the only one you're going to find that agrees with you on everything."
Christie, a hugely popular governor who many Republicans hoped to entice into the race, was making his first appearance on behalf of Romney in Iowa, a sign of the stepped-up effort that the former Massachusetts governor is now making here.
Christie told the scores of people gathered in the lobby of the Kum & Go corporate headquarters that if Romney won Iowa's caucuses, the nomination would be his.
"I guarantee you, I think if Mitt Romney wins Iowa on Jan. 3, he is going to be the next president of the United States," he said. "So I'm out here to tell you I'm supporting him because I believe he's the most qualified and I believe he's the only Republican who can win, and we owe it to our children and our grandchildren to make a change at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and we do it now."
Moments earlier, Christie was interrupted by more than a dozen protesters tied to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"Chris Christie and Mitt Romney are the corporate 1%!" they chanted before being escorted out. "Make Wall Street pay!"
Christie, who is known for his blunt style and sense of humor, was unfazed.
"Awwww, work it all out, work it all out for yourself," he said. "We're used to dealing with jokers like this in New Jersey all the time. Don't worry about it."
He then sought to use the disruption as symbolic of what he characterized as Obama's failings.
"They represent an anger in our country that Barack Obama has caused," Christie said, as the crowd roared in approval. "Because he is a typical cynical Chicago ward politician who runs for office and promises everything and comes to office and disappoints. So their anger is rooted not in me or in Mitt Romney. Their anger is rooted in the fact that they believed in this hope and change garbage they were sold three years ago by this president."
Christie did not mention Romney's GOP rivals by name, but he took a clear swipe at former House Speaker Gingrich. Christie argued that legislators lacked the experience to be president.
"They've never run anything. They don't know how to run something," he said. "We have seen what it's like to have someone in office who doesn't have the first idea how to use executive power or to assert real leadership."
In what could be taken as a slap at Gingrich's past personal and political stumbles, Christie also said that Romney would never embarrass the country.
During a brief question-and-answer session, he refused to say he would not accept a vice presidential nod, but said it was highly unlikely.
"I think it's impolite to say no to something that hasn't happened," he said. But "if you're a betting woman … I wouldn't bet on Romney-Christie."