Gov. Christie's supporters have formed a super PAC that can accept unlimited donations in advance of an anticipated presidential campaign, an announcement that comes as the New Jersey governor confronts unfavorable poll numbers and rivals who lately have commanded much of the 2016 spotlight.
Christie's political team also has expanded, with three hires made for a separate committee, an adviser said Thursday.
The Super PAC, America Leads, was started by Phil Cox, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association (RGA). Cox worked with Christie while the governor was chairman of the association last year.
"I've established this super PAC because it's time for America to lead again, and I believe Gov. Christie is exactly the kind of strong leader we need at this critical point in our nation's history," Cox said Thursday. "He's provided effective, conservative leadership in a deep blue state, bringing people together to solve difficult problems and get results. That's exactly the kind of leadership we need in America today, and we hope he decides to run."
The formation of the super PAC was first reported Thursday by the Wall Street Journal. Cox said he filed paperwork to form the committee Feb. 23. In addition to Cox, former RGA finance director Paige Hahn is working for the PAC as its finance director. A Republican fund-raiser for Florida Gov. Rick Scott is serving as a consultant.
Christie's team also has signed up more political advisers. Three consultants with experience on presidential campaigns, including for George W. Bush, have been hired by the Leadership Matters for America political action committee backing Christie - a group separate from the super PAC.
The hires of Brian Jones, Cary Evans, and Kevin Shuvalov were also first reported by the Journal. They were confirmed Thursday by Christie adviser Mike DuHaime, a senior adviser to the Leadership Matters PAC.
While super PACs can accept unlimited donations, they can't coordinate directly with candidates. The Leadership Matters PAC cannot accept donations greater than $5,000 or fund campaign activities, but Christie can be part of its fund-raising efforts.
On Wednesday, Christie attended a meet-and-greet in Florida hosted by billionaire Home Depot cofounder Ken Langone. Several fund-raising events are lined up in the coming weeks.
Next week, the Leadership Matters PAC will host an event to thank people who have been raising money in New Jersey, DuHaime said. Other events for the PAC are planned this month in Houston and Philadelphia, where U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan will be host on March 25.
Christie faces a crowded field of prospective candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is seen as a favorite of the Republican establishment, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose popularity has been on the rise.
Earlier this week, a Journal/NBC News poll found 57 percent of Republican primary voters surveyed said they could not see themselves supporting Christie, a ranking among the worst in the poll.