Two Republicans comfortable in governor's mansions will host a sold-out, high-priced fundraising dinner at the Hilton in East Brunswick, New Jersey, but the question on everyone's mind is: Which one is running for president in 2016?
Gov. Chris Christie, whose 52nd birthday is the ostensible reason for the gathering, has the lead against other obvious Republican candidates so far, according to RealClearPolitics'
roundup of national polls, and Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 nominee, insists he will not run again.
The event is a surefire money raiser for the state GOP — over 1,000 tickets were sold, some at $150 apiece, but others at $5,000 each, with a special roundtable ticket limited to only 20 donors fetching $25,000, according to NJ.com.
Christie, who was vetted as a possible vice presidential choice by Romney's crew in 2012, told reporters in Camden that he and Romney "like each other and consider each other friends," and has said of Romney, "He’s a good man, I like him a lot. I respect him," NJ.com reports.
Christie campaigned for Romney in 2012 and Romney publicly went to bat for Christie in January over the George Washington Bridge closure scandal, telling the Huffington Post,
"Chris has handled this in a very effective way. A member of his administration did something that he was unaware of and that he found reprehensible. He faced the American people for two hours, took their questions. He dismissed people who were responsible. He took personal responsibility. That’s what a leader does."
Yet protesters from New Jersey Citizens Action will be in front of the Hilton when the pair arrive, wearing birthday party hats in mockery of the event, and angry about the $7 million in legal costs billed by the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher over the bridge scandal, according to Asbury Park Press.
Romney said there was a "1 in a million" chance that he might run again, telling a radio talk show, "Let's say all the guys that were running came together and said, 'Hey, we've decided we can't do it, you must do it.' That's the 1 in a million we're thinking about," the Huffington Post
Romney said, "I have looked at what happens to anybody in this country who loses as the nominee of their party. They become a loser for life."
However, a USA Today/Suffolk poll
of voters in Iowa found that Romney still retains his popularity and could be a viable candidate again — he polled 35.29 against Christie's 6.47 when voters were asked who they favored as a Republican nominee.
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