In what constitutes his first major political trip, the blue-state governor who has the GOP enthralled by his face-off with the public-sector unions—and his passing of a budget with surprising ease—will be traveling to some of the nation’s hottest political battlegrounds in the coming weeks, including a stop in presidential proving ground Iowa.

There, he’ll boost Gov. Terry Branstad—a trip that is sure to amplify the Christie-for-president buzz, although he’s emphatically insisted that he is not making a White House run…

The center-right rock star’s tour comes at a moment when the Republican Party has been tacking sharply to the right in many national races, and reflects the variety of voices the party is currently looking to as it defines itself heading into 2012. For Christie, sources close to him said, it’s a chance to get his message out and promote what he has described as the future road for the party.