Larry Hogan's drive to become governor of Maryland received an infusion of Republican star power Tuesday when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came to Bethesda to campaign for him.
Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a possible GOP candidate for president in 2016, tried to give Hogan's campaign against Democrat Anthony G. Brown a burst of energy two weeks before Election Day and two days before the start of early voting.
The visit to a local pancake house was Christie's first public appearance on behalf of Hogan. He attended a private fundraiser for Hogan last month.
The visit gave Hogan an answer to President Barack Obama's appearance for Brown Sunday in Upper Marlboro.
Christie noted the recent influx of prominent Democrats supporting Brown in a race they had once seen as a relatively easy win.
"They know Larry Hogan has the momentum, and they're trying to stop him," Christie said.
The New Jersey governor is one of several national Republicans showing interest in a race that polls show has grown tighter. A recent Baltimore Sun poll showed Brown with a 7-point lead over Hogan.
Christie and Hogan swept into the restaurant about 10:30 a.m. and worked the room before meeting with Republican activists, many from the Democratic bastion of Montgomery County. Hogan was accompanied by his wife, Yumi, and running mate Boyd Rutherford.
Christie, who has won twice in a heavily Democratic state, is something of a role model for Hogan.
"I'm here to show people I'm living proof that not only can it happen once, it can happen twice," Christie said.
Hogan said Christie, who was set back earlier this year by bad publicity surrounding the apparently politically motivated closure of lanes of the George Washington Bridge, would make an excellent presidential candidate.
"I've been a big fan of Governor Christie since he first won in 2009," Hogan said.
Christie said that as head of the Republican governors, he doesn't waste his time on lost causes.
"I'm a mercenary in this job. I go to places we can win," he said.
Mila Tobin, 67, of Chevy Chase, was literally jumping for joy at having met Christie.
There was a brief shower on Hogan's parade Tuesday when a reporter asked him to comment on his endorsement Monday by the National Rifle Association — not necessarily an advantage in heavily blue Maryland. Hogan refused.
Brown and allied groups continued to pound on Hogan over his response to the NRA the questionnaire, which Hogan has refused to release.
The Brown campaign released an ad saying "Larry Hogan needs to come clean" over the answers he gave the NRA to merit his A- rating. Brown got an F.
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Vincent DeMarco, a liberal activist who advocates in Annapolis for gun control, distributed what he said was a blank copy of the NRA Maryland questionnaire. It asked questions about candidates' positions on a series of gun-related issues ranging from gun locks to background checks to outright repeal of the 2013 Firearms Safety Act supported by Gov. Martin O'Malley and Brown.