New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will announce on Tuesday afternoon that he will not run for president, ending weeks of intense speculation about his future, a Republican source confirmed to National Journal. His decision means that the Republican presidential field is now all but set.
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A source close to Christie said that the governor will cite the limited time frame he would have to mount a presidential campaign and say his focus has always been on governing his state. He will also offer some criticism of President Obama's leadership, according to the source.
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The decision also is good news for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who would have lost support in his Northeast base to Christie. New polls have shown Romney surging past Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the wake of Perry’s poor debate performances and a flap involving a racial epithet at a West Texas hunting camp where he has taken friends and supporters.
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The decision is in line with Christie's repeated and emphatic denials over the last year of any interest in the White House. Had he entered the race, Christie would have been regarded as a top-tier candidate likely to find support among many conservatives still lukewarm about their choices for president. He possesses a cult following among conservatives fond of his tough-talking style and a cadre of wealthy donors eager to raise money for his campaign.
But as he mulled whether to enter the race, questions arose about everything from whether he could put a substantive organization together in just a few months before the first primaries to whether his corpulence made him look unpresidential. In the crucial state of Iowa, several local party chairmen said they wondered if he could attract tea party support as well as persuade voters he had sufficient experience.
“My guess is Christie needs about four more years or maybe four more years and then becomes VP,” said Garland “Mac” McDonald, chairman of Iowa’s Black Hawk County Republican Party. “He needs some international stuff, he needs some foreign policy. You know, there’s not a lot of foreign policy in New Jersey.”
Christie, who unseated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine in 2009, became a conservative star after aggressively slashing New Jersey’s budget, including deep concessions from the state’s politically powerful public-sector unions. He also publicly sparred with union members, engaging in shouting matches that were featured in a series of online videos that became a sensation among many Republicans.
His success led to incessant calls from many conservatives for Christie to run for the Republican nomination. At one point, Christie even joked he would have to commit suicide before reporters stopped asking him about it.
But he began seriously reconsidering in late September, after pressure from an array of Republicans dissatisfied with the current GOP field. The governor stirred further speculation when he delivered a high-profile speech in late September at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where he criticized Obama and some of his would-be Republican rivals.
Even as his star continues to rise nationally, Christie could face a tough re-election campaign at home in 2013, given his animosity toward labor unions. His popularity sagged in May 2011, with just 44 percent approving of his performance, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll. However, a Fairleigh Dickinson poll released in late September showed his support back up to 54 percent.