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DES MOINES, Iowa — Hints of the old Chris Christie, the charismatic, buck-stops-here leader that once excited Republican voters of all ideological stripes, was evident during a weekend swing through this crucial primary state.

About 200 packed a sports bar like sardines to see New Jersey's governor midday Friday in Council Bluffs, in western Iowa; he received a rousing reception from the more than 1,500 who saw him and three other contenders later that day in Orange City, a small community in the decidedly conservative, northwest corner of the state; and he had an audience of 2,000-plus engaged on Saturday during a candidate cattle call in Des Moines.

Republicans came from all over to glimpse the Republican who rocketed to conservative stardom in 2010 after YouTube videos of his town hall meetings, in which he aggressively challenged the New Jersey teachers union, went viral. Probably a quarter of the crowd in Council Bluffs journeyed from across the river in Nebraska to see him. At least one GOP voter who saw him in Des Moines drove 200 miles north from Shawnee, Kan.

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