MARION, Iowa -- At 3 p.m. on a Thursday, well after any lunch rush had come and gone, MJ's Restaurant
in Marion was teeming with activity.
Local Republicans filled seats at nearly bare tables -- a
coffee mug here, an iced tea there -- and dozens of reporters loitered, all waiting to see Gov. Terry Branstad and his potential-future-presidential-candidate
guest, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, making his first trip to Iowa since 2012.
The whole scene
initially felt like an awkward first date: Iowa Republicans, still puzzling over what went wrong in their last presidential
election, being wooed by an attractive new suitor and urged to move on.