Gov. Christie, seeking to recover his mojo in the Republican presidential race, raised cash in Philadelphia on Wednesday evening at an event with top party donors.
The reception at the Union League in Center City was expected to raise at least $100,000 for Christie's political action committee, Leadership Matters for America, according to Pennsylvania GOP sources.
It was the first stop on a swing that will take Christie to Dallas and Houston for a pair of fund-raisers Thursday. He is scheduled to address a GOP dinner Friday in Macomb County, Mich., the place where pollsters first identified the breed of voter known as the "Reagan Democrat" in the 1980s.
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., Pa.), who became friends with Christie when they were U.S. attorneys in neighboring states, hosted the Philadelphia event.
"He is just a genuine person - the thing that attracted me to him the most is that he's a very loyal friend," Meehan said.
He added that Christie would be a "formidable" candidate for president if he chooses to run.
"He has a special skill in communicating with people - sometimes in a sharp manner - that is direct and honest and reflects exactly how they feel," Meehan said.
Christie earned the gratitude of Pennsylvania Republican leaders last year when he raised money and campaigned for underdog Gov. Tom Corbett, who ultimately lost November's election. Several said that was one reason they were happy to contribute to Christie's PAC.
Christie's long-anticipated presidential campaign has hit some roadblocks of late as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has locked up Republican establishment support and high-end donors across the country, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has surged into the early lead in polls.
On Monday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, seeking to build a coalition of tea party activists and evangelicals, became the first Republican to announce his candidacy for the nomination. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky plans to launch his campaign April 7.
A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found 57 percent of Republican primary voters surveyed said they could not see themselves supporting Christie, among the worst showings in the poll.
During his monthly radio program Monday, Christie said that he would announce his decision on the race "by late spring or early summer" and that waiting would not hurt his ability to get commitments from campaign donors. It's "very early" in the race, Christie said on NJ 101.5.
Hours before Christie was to appear in Philadelphia, about 20 protesters gathered in front of the storied Union League to blast him for opposing mandatory paid sick leave for workers. Advocates say it is a matter of protecting public health and the economic fortunes of low-wage workers.
"Gov. Christie is on the wrong side of the issue, of history," said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families. "Republicans get sick, too. . . . Workers should not be pushed into an economic tailspin if they get sick."
A pending bill in the New Jersey Legislature would mandate that businesses allow workers to earn paid days off for illness. Nine municipalities in the state, including Newark, Jersey City, and Trenton, have adopted similar local ordinances. Philadelphia recently approved earned sick-time rules.
In a town-hall meeting earlier this month in North Jersey, Christie responded to a question about the issue by saying he had a "real fear of job loss" if businesses were forced to bear the expense of paid sick leave.