WASHINGTON _ New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, saying, "Now is not my time," said Tuesday he will not seek the Republican nomination for president.
"For me, the answer was never anything but no," he said. Christie described how he loves his job as governor.
He said he toyed with the idea of running because "I felt an obligation to earnestly consider their advice."
"In the end, what I've always felt was the right decision was the right decision today. Now is not my time. I have a commitment to New Jersey that I simply will not abandon," he said.
"New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me."
Christie was one of the last hopes of Republicans largely dissatisfied with their current offering of GOP presidential candidates.
But most of those Republican voices came from the GOP's right wing, and Christie, 49, has views on immigration and gay civil unions likely to spark unrest among diehard conservatives.
He would have entered the race, though, as a top-tier candidate, several GOP operatives say, a status that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have enjoyed. And Christie would probably have been able to tap Wall Street Republican money and finance his campaign quickly and effectively.
The Christie decision means the Republican race is still wide open.
“Republicans have not settled on a candidate because the electorate is divided – there’s no consensus on exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Pennsylvania’s Franklin & Marshall College. “I can’t remember a time when we’ve had such a quick rise and fall of candidates.”
Christie has emerged as a potentially serious contender among voters for one reason, according to Craig Robinson, former Iowa Republican party political director and editor of the website TheIowaRepublican.com: “They looking for a savior.”
“People were spoiled by Ronald Reagan,” added David Woodard, a Republican consultant and political science professor at South Carolina’s Clemson University. “I keep reminding people Reagan died.”
In Christie, some Republican voters saw a blunt-talking first-term governor of a largely Democratic state who’s taken on the opposing party, slashed government spending and sparred with the state’s with unions.
“There are a lot of fundraisers out there, political bundlers and major donors who are not satisfied with the current field and will absolutely fund him,” said Bill Dal Col, who managed wealthy magazine publisher Steve Forbes’ unsuccessful 1996 presidential campaign.
Christie come across as a plainspoken, regular guy that has appeal to a GOP electorate that’s clamoring for an authentic figure, according to Mitchell Moss, a professor of policy and urban planning at New York University.
“He has a very amazing skill to come across as the authentic voice of the working people,” Moss said. “He has the ability to connect to working concerns the way no other Republican has: he’s a person that doesn’t exude GOP Northeastern elitism.”
Part of the yen for another candidate comes because of qualms about Romney, widely viewed as one of the frontrunners. Diehard conservatives have never eagerly embraced Romney, who ran as a moderate conservative for governor in 2002.
Among the conservatives' complaints: The Massachusetts health care plan he signed into law as governor. The plan, which requires nearly everyone in that state to get coverage, is widely seen as a model for the 2010 federal health care law that Republicans abhor.
Perry began to falter over the last few weeks after a series of nationally televised Republican debates. Bachmann’s boost from winning Iowa’s August 13 straw poll quickly evaporated when Perry entered the race. Now, Cain’s emergence from winning Florida’s straw poll could by eclipsed by a Christie campaign.
“The Washington establishment of the Republican Party doesn’t think Perry can win because he’s too conservative and Romney can’t close the deal, so they’re looking for an alternative,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Liberty Commission. “
Christie’s time in the top tier could also be as just as fleeting as the others because of positions he’s articulated on immigration, gay rights, and guns – sensitive issues to many conservative Republican voters.
While serving as U.S. attorney in 2008, Christie said “Being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.” Appearing last year on ABC’s “This Week,” Christie called on the federal government to secure the nation’s borders and implement a “common sense” path to illegal immigrants to obtain citizenship.
In addition, Christie’s opposition to same-sex marriage but support for civil unions between same-sex couples and his support for the federal assault weapons ban isn’t likely to draw conservative and evangelical voters from other GOP candidates.
“Evangelicals like that he’s pro-life, that he’s managed to cut billions of dollars from New Jersey’s budget, he’s faced down the teachers unions – he doesn’t take crud from the unions,” Land said.
“But he’s got some chinks that are problematic: he’s for civil unions, that won’t help win Republican primaries; he’s for restrictions on the Second Amendment, that won’t help win Republican primaries. If he gets the nomination, he’ll do it without a lot of evangelical votes.”
ON THE WEB: Chris Christie website
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