TOPICS > Politics

As Filing Deadlines Loom, Will Chris Christie Make Bid for Presidency?

September 28, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is not yet running for president, but many Republicans are yearning for him to throw his hat into the ring. Judy Woodruff and Political Editor David Chalian discuss the likelihood that Christie will enter the race and the effect that would have.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, to the 2012 campaign trail, and the yearning among some Republicans for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to throw his hat into the ring.

Chris Christie is not yet running for president, and he may never take the plunge. But the New Jersey governor sounded like a candidate last night at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., as he roundly criticized President Obama.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: Still, we continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office. We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things that are so obvious to all Americans and to a watching and anxious world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Then during a question-and-answer session, Christie found himself the target of appeals to enter the 2012 fray.

WOMAN: I really implore you to — as a citizen of this country to, please, sir, to reconsider, not — don’t even say anything tonight. Of course, you wouldn’t. Go home and really think about it, please.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WOMAN: Do it — do it for my daughter. Do it for our grandchildren. Do it for our sons. Please, sir, don’t — we need you. Your country needs you to run for president.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Christie said he was flattered, but he gave no indication he would change his mind about running.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE: I hear exactly what you’re saying, and I feel the passion with which you say it. And it touches me. But, by the same token, that heartfelt message you gave me is also not a reason for me to do it. That reason has to reside inside me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The governor’s reputation as a blunt-talking budget-cutter has made him a rising star in the Republican Party less than two years after taking office. But he’s repeatedly found colorful ways to knock down the idea of running for president, including this one in Washington last February.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE: Listen, I threatened to commit suicide. I did.

(LAUGHTER)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE: I said, what do I have to do short of suicide to convince people I’m not running? Apparently, I actually have to commit suicide to convince people I’m not running.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ultimately, though, if Christie is going to answer the presidential call, he will need to do so soon, as key filing deadlines are drawing near.

For more now, we are joined by our news hour political editor, David Chalian.

Hello, David.

DAVID CHALIAN: Hello, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is Gov. Christie seriously reconsidering the decision about whether to run?

DAVID CHALIAN: There is no doubt that he’s in a different place now when than he was when he made those remarks about his need to commit suicide to end the speculation.

I spoke to somebody who is very familiar with Gov. Christie’s thinking about this today. It’s not that he’s anywhere closer to getting into the race. And he still very much may end up not getting in the race, but he is in a phase of reconsideration.

He is taking to heart the phone calls he’s receiving, the entreaties he’s receiving, and he’s doing what candidates who do assess a possible campaign do. He’s looking at a potential path to the nomination. It is viable for him? Would it be a successful endeavor?

There’s no indication that he’s anywhere closer to deciding to do this, but he is very much listening to these calls for him to get in the race.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And thinking about it.

DAVID CHALIAN: And, without a doubt, thinking about it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So how do we read, David, the decision he made to make this speech at the Reagan Library last night criticizing President Obama, laying out his own political philosophy? What are we to think about that?

DAVID CHALIAN: Well, it’s important to note that that speech was scheduled long before this round of speculation about Gov. Christie.

His team will certainly concede that since Rick Perry’s widely panned debate performance last week, in the last week to 10 days, the pressure has intensified on him, the phone calls have increased, but this speech was one that was on his schedule. And you have to remember he’s a national Republican figure. He’s the vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

He’s seen as a rising star in the party. And Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was at the Reagan Library giving a speech laying out his vision a few weeks ago, and nobody thinks he’s running for president. This is a venue that national Republicans go to, to give sort of their remarks.

That being said, Gov. Christie was well aware that this particular speech was going to get a ton more attention because of the phase he’s in.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, by the way, governor of a blue — red — a Republican governor of a blue state with some positions that may or may not go over well in the party.

DAVID CHALIAN: Which is why all these candidates know their very best day on the campaign trail is the day before they actually get into the race.

And that’s not different with Gov. Christie. He may be a fantastic debater. And he’s shown in the New Jersey gubernatorial race in 2009 to be very good on the stump, but you’re right. He has taken some positions that are not in concert with the conservatives inside the Republican Party who dominate a lot of the early nominating contests.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So who is it, David, who is urging him to get in?

DAVID CHALIAN: Mostly Wall Street moneymen. That’s the first category of folks that have really been calling him. A lot of these big donors from New York who are not — they don’t align themselves with the Tea Party wing of the party. They’re more moderate, centrist Republicans.

They have donated to George Bush over the years. They are holding on the sidelines. Some of the more McCain donors, they have not jumped in with anyone yet. And they see him as their type of guy, also some of his fellow Republican governors, some politicians around the country, but right now he’s getting a lot of calls from folks with the big money.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But aren’t those the very same Republicans who Mitt Romney is appealing to?

DAVID CHALIAN: They are. There’s no doubt about that. And Mitt Romney has strong ties to Wall Street and those money folks, too, that fuel campaigns.

I will say I think that this Christie boomlet of speculation right now that we’re seeing is a big flashing warning sign for Mitt Romney. We have seen it before, right? There were a lot of people wooing Haley Barbour or Mitch Daniels into the race back in the spring — they passed — then wooing Rick Perry into the race, now wooing Gov. Christie into the race.

That means that they’re not coalescing around Mitt Romney. And that may be a big trouble sign for him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, finally, you were telling me that this also has an interesting effect on Gov. Perry, who had his difficulties last week.

DAVID CHALIAN: Right. He is now out of the spotlight, and he could pretty much send a nice thank-you card to Gov. Christie for taking the heat off of him this week, because he’s been trying the clean up this mess he left behind in Orlando last week with that debate.

And doing that outside of the spotlight is much easier for him. So they are all too happy in the Perry world that all this attention is on Chris Christie this week.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So we will see whether the field is set or not.

DAVID CHALIAN: Right. He doesn’t have that much longer to decide. And they know that, too. We will no sooner before — sooner, rather than later.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Chalian, thank you.

DAVID CHALIAN: Thank you.