With Gov. Christie campaigning in Iowa today, it’s a good time to reflect on the changing dynamic between the governor and his lieutenant, one of the Hawkeye State’s most famous daughters. Kimberly Ann McFadden — now known as Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno — was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa. In the earliest days of the Christie administration, according to two people on the political side of his operation, it was openly discussed how Guadagno “would make a great Iowa campaign surrogate for the Governor,” in the words of one operative, who insisted on anonymity.
“The idea was that she’d give great voice to the New Jersey success story from an Iowa native. The plan — it wasn’t really a ‘plan’ because this was 2011 or 2012, so it was early to be thinking about this, but you know how operatives are — was that Gov would be in NJ and LG would be in Iowa. Then Gov would go to New Hampshire or South Carolina or Florida and LG would act as Gov.”
Remember, Kim Guadagno is New Jersey’s first-ever lieutenant governor — the office having been created for the 2009 election — so it wasn’t entirely clear how the officials would function.
Now that Christie’s team has clearly made the decision to focus more on first-primary state New Hampshire than on the first-caucus state Iowa, where Christie is polling badly, that strategy has receded. It might also point to the oft-mentioned chill that’s said to have emerged between the governor and his lieutenant. No articles have even mentioned Guadagno traveling to Iowa or her name being used in Iowa newspapers. Nor could we find any instances in which Christie referenced Gaudagno being from Iowa—the kind of personal connection that candidates from Scott Walker to Michelle Bachmann have tended to mention. (At press time, Guadagno had not responded to request for comment; if she does, this story will be updated to reflect her remarks.)
Quinnipiac’s last poll put Governor Christie in 15th place of 16 tested candidates, at 1% — down from 3% in May and 4% in February. With Christie struggling in the polls in Iowa, it’s easy to forget that there was a time that Iowa looked like fertile ground for the tough-talking governor. He had a strong relationship with Steve King, the Sioux City Congressman whose endorsement is coveted by presidential candidates who need to establish their conservative bona fides. King coached Christie on how to deal with the congressional hearings about deferred prosecutions, the controversial tactic Christie used as US Attorney that some have argued let companies escape punishment in exchange for giving friends of Christie like Herb Stern and John Ashcroft lucrative monitoring contracts. Christie repaid the favor, traveling to Iowa to star at a fundraiser for King on July 25, 2011.
Christie also became friendly with Gov. Terry Branstad, having attended the governor’s education summit and privately dined in the governor’s mansion in Ames. His team surely hoped that would turn into greater support in Iowa. So far, that support has yet to materialize. But maybe the good people of Iowa will hear from the LG yet.