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Chris Christie: Iowans should vote for candidate who would not ‘embarrass America’

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – One of Mitt Romney’s highest-profile supporters – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – tonight portrayed the former Massachusetts governor as a committed family man who won’t embarrass the Republican Party or America.

Without directly mentioning Newt Gingrich, who is Romney’s chief rival and has been married three times, Christie said voters should make sure they evaluate the candidates’ personal backgrounds when going into the voting booth.

“He loves his wife, he loves his children, and he has no absolutely no hesitation in showing that affection openly,” Christie said, when asked by an undecided voter to convince her to vote for Romney. “Now that’s not what you see on TV all the time, but I sat in my backyard for 2 ½ hours and watched him talk to my children.”

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“Examine his record, absolutely. Examine his position on the issues now, they’re important,” Christie continued. “But first and foremost when you look at these extraordinary candidates, say, ‘Is this the kind of person that is always going to make me proud in the Oval Office -- and I never have to worry whether they’ll embarrass America, that I never have to worry will do something that will make me ashamed?’”

Romney, he added, “just won’t.”

“Maybe we should expect that from all our leaders, but we’ve learned over time we don’t always get it,” he said, without naming names.

The Romney campaign has been caught off guard recently with the rapid rise of Gingrich, who has surged ahead in several early states, including Iowa. In a sign that they are planning to draw further contrasts, two top Romney advisers – former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu and former Missouri Senator Jim Talent – are planning a conference call tomorrow “to discuss” Gingrich’s record.

Christie, who declined repeated attempts by some GOP leaders to get into the presidential race, has jumped solidly behind Romney and has been stumping for him in several early-voting states. He came tonight to a rally held at the headquarters for Kum & Go, a local gas station company.

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Despite efforts by the Romney campaign to downplay expectations in Iowa, Christie declared flatly, “If Mitt Romney wins Iowa on Jan. 3, he is going to be the next president of the United States.”

Christie’s appearance here was interrupted by a group of ``Occupy Iowa Caucus’’ protesters. Several minutes into his speech, one man at the front shouted out, “Mic check!” and protesters stationed at all corners of the room began shouting, “Chris Christie and Mitt Romney! Serve the corporate 1 percent!” and “Put people first!”

As the protesters were escorted out of the building -- and told to leave the parking lot – Christie mocked their chants.

“So agonizing. So terrible. Work it all out. Work it all out for yourselves,” he said. “We’re used to dealing with jokers like this in New Jersey all the time.”

When asked whether voters could see a Romney-Christie ticket next year, the New Jersey governor said it was unlikely.

“I don’t think Governor Romney will ask me. I think there are others who are better suited,” he said. “I won’t say absolutely no, but only because I think it’d be rude to do that.”

But, he told the woman who asked the question, “If you’re a betting woman…I wouldn’t lay any money on that. But one never knows. We can live and hope.”

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Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.