Although Christie didn’t promise to enter the race during the dinner with the seven Iowa Republicans on Tuesday night, he never flatly declared he wouldn’t, said Gary Kirke, a business entrepreneur and an organizer of the recruitment trip.

Consider this: Christie had 13 of his people at the table, all trusted advisers, said Michael Richards, a West Des Moines Republican who also went on the 9½-hour trip.

The Iowa businessmen said Christie is savvy enough to understand the implications of scheduling a visit to Iowa in July, just three weeks before the crucial straw poll here.

“I’d say that’s huge,” Kirke said of Christie’s pending Iowa trip.

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