New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is urging Republican presidential candidates to take a harder line on spending and debt, began a national round of speeches and fundraising today as party donors urge him to reconsider a White House run in 2012.
Christie, 49, has been getting calls from party leaders and executives since Texas Governor Rick Perry stumbled in a nationally televised debate on Sept. 22, according to a Republican close to Christie, who declined to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak for him publicly. Christie hasn’t changed his mind about running, the person said.
The first-term Republican has said repeatedly that he would “have to commit suicide” to convince people he won’t seek higher office in 2012. Michael Drewniak, a Christie spokesman, said in a e-mail that “nothing at all has changed.”
During a Sept. 22 appearance with Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in New Jersey, Christie ruled himself out of next year’s race, while saying the current crop of Republican candidates must address issues such as federal entitlement spending and debt. Christie said even though he and Daniels aren’t running, they need to shape the debate in Washington in a way current candidates aren’t.
“We’re not talking about -- on our side or any of the folks -- these things in a forthright way,” Christie said during the joint appearance. “They’re dancing around on other stuff and just trying to get four or five sound bites.”
Daniels said during the appearance that he is “not taking ‘no’” in regards to a Christie presidential bid. “I’m taking ‘not yet,’” he said.
Donors from Florida to Colorado have helped drive a 12-fold increase in fundraising from other states for the New Jersey Republican Party this year, when all 120 members of the Democratic-controlled Legislature face re-election.
Christie today will attend a luncheon for the New Jersey Republican Party in Clayton, Missouri, and then a dinner at a private residence for the Missouri Republican Party, according to a schedule released by the New Jersey party.
Tomorrow he will attend a morning event for Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican running for Congress, and then he will head to California for three fundraisers to benefit the New Jersey Republican Party. On Sept. 29 he will be in Louisiana to help raise money for that state Republican Party’s Victory Fund.
Christie tomorrow night will deliver the keynote address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library’s Perspectives on Leadership Forum in Simi Valley, California.
Drewniak said Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno took over this morning when Christie left the state. He said Christie is traveling with his full security detail and referred comment on the trip to the state committee.
The travel plans were scheduled long before last week’s debate, and aren’t an indication that Christie has changed his mind, said Rick Gorka, a spokesman for the New Jersey Republican State Committee.
“It’s a big fundraising swing through the Midwest and western states,” Gorka said. “It’s all about him meeting with new donors and supporters. This trip is possible due to the fact that people like what he does, what he says and the results he’s gotten here in New Jersey.”
Christie took office last year as the first Republican elected governor in New Jersey since 1997. He defeated incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine in the 2009 race amid voter dissatisfaction over the state’s high property taxes and sluggish economy.
Christie has become a national Republican star after he cut $10 billion in spending on schools, pensions and towns in his first budget.
The governor campaigned across the nation for his party’s candidates in the November 2010 elections, when Republicans captured control of 11 legislatures.
Since taking office, Christie has headlined Republican fundraisers in states including New York and Pennsylvania, and built up a wellspring of support within his party as he campaigns for Republicans from Massachusetts to New Mexico.
“The governor has the enviable position where if he were to run for president, the steps he’d have to take are really the same ones he’d be doing to run for re-election as governor,” said John Weingart, associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
Out of State
Contributors to New Jersey’s Republican Party this year include New York billionaire John Catsimatidis, who gave $25,000 in June; Kenneth Langone, co-founder of Home Depot Inc., who gave $10,000 in June; and Paul Fireman, founder of Reebok International Ltd., with $25,000 in May, according to campaign finance records.
Christie has said Langone urged him to run for president during a meeting in June. Langone is one of the donors again urging a reluctant Christie to enter the race, Politico reported. Langone has been asking potential donors to hold back on supporting Perry or his top rival, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Politico said.
Langone is traveling and couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, said Jim McCarthy, a Langone spokesman in Washington.
Perry said during last week’s debate that he supports allowing illegal-immigrant students in Texas to pay in-state tuition at public universities. That stance sparked criticism and his defense of it drew audience boos.
--Editors: Stacie Servetah, Stephen Merelman
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