WEST WINDSOR, N.J. (AP) — Republican Joe Kyrillos (kih-RIHL'-lohsez) sought to jump-start his candidacy for U.S. Senate on Monday by campaigning with the party's most popular figure, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie made his first public appearance with Kyrillos since endorsing him in February and said at least five more joint campaign stops are scheduled before Election Day. He worked behind the scenes for his pal of 20 years through the spring and summer, headlining fundraisers that have helped Kyrillos stay in the game against Sen. Bob Menendez, the incumbent Democrat who banked more than $8 million before the race.
"Everything that the campaign's asked me to do, I've done and I'll continue to do," Christie said after schmoozing and introducing Kyrillos to patrons at a Mercer County diner. "If it turns out he needs more, I'll make time for more."
Christie has been a popular surrogate for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and sought-after draw for Republican candidates around the country. But he said Monday he planned to make time for in-state as well as out-of-state campaigning in the three weeks leading to the Nov. 6 election. His own re-election would be next year, if he decides to run.
"The people who are really going to suffer in the next month are my family, who aren't going to see me a heck of a lot," he said. "I'll be out and around the country doing things for Gov. Romney that he asks, I'll be here in New Jersey working for Joe as hard as he needs me to work."
Kyrillos, 52, who polls show lagging Menendez by double digits, is increasingly pinning his hopes for a decent showing to his association with Christie.
"Joe's Chris Christie," Kyrillos told reporters at the diner, with Christie standing inches away and nodding in agreement. "He says it a different way but he's basically saying the same things, and he pursuing the same things."
"People know me because they know him," he added. "There's not a mention of me without it saying Joe Kyrillos — comma — Christie ally."
At the diner, people flocked to Christie, shaking his hand and asking the governor to pose for pictures.
Christie predicted Kyrillos would overcome his deficit, outperform Romney in New Jersey, and narrowly defeat Menendez.
New Jersey voters haven't elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since the 1970s.
Both Christie and Kyrillos have been trying to link Menendez to former Gov. Jon Corzine, the unpopular Democrat who appointed the Hudson County congressman to the Senate seat he vacated to run for governor in 2005. Menendez was elected to a full, six-year term the following year.
Menendez and Christie are well-known adversaries whose dislike for one another dates back to when Christie, as a federal prosecutor, subpoenaed the Democrat during his first U.S. Senate campaign. The probe went nowhere, and Menendez won.