New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters today that everyone from Republican party bigwigs to a farmer in Nebraska had pleaded with him to run for president, but he was committed to his job in the Garden State.
“Now is not my time,” he said at a press conference in Trenton. And, showcasing his humor, Christie gave a message to the state’s citizens: “Whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with me.”
Dozens of high-level GOP donors have been paying visits to Christie since the spring in the hopes of changing his mind.
But the governor has spent months saying the same thing in myriad ways: “No.”
In an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer earlier this year, Christie said he was categorically not running for president.
“You don’t make a decision to run for president of the United States based on impulse. I don’t feel ready in my heart to be president,” he told Sawyer in April. “Unless I do, I don’t have any right offering myself to the people of this country. It’s much too big a job. And so you have to first feel in your heart that you’re ready and that you want it more than anything else.”
And during a speech in Washington, D.C., a few months earlier, Christie put an even finer point on it .
“What do I have to do short of suicide to convince people I’m not running?” he asked. “You have to believe in your heart soul and mind that you’re ready. And I don’t believe that in myself right now.”
But the will-he-or-won’t-he speculation reached a fever pitch once again less than two weeks ago when new reports surfaced that donors were trying mightily to get Christie to change his mind.
Sources close to the Republican governor told ABC News Sept 24. that “the pressure from donors and other people has intensified,” and that the “volume of calls” urging Christie to run had increased.
That was before Christie came face-to-face with some of the big-money GOP contributors who were hoping to lure him into the race during a weeklong fundraising tour that took him to Missouri, California and Louisiana. But it was at a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., last Tuesday where Christie heard some of the most passionate pleas to date.
Although he referred the crowd to his previous denials that he would not jump into the race, he also told a member of the audience who implored him to get into the race that he was “listening to every word.”
“I mean this with all my heart. We can’t wait another four years, to 2016. I really implore you as a citizen of this country to please, sir, to reconsider,” one member of the audience told the governor. “We need you. Your country needs you to run for president.”
“I hear exactly what you’re saying and I feel the passion with which you say it, and it touches me,” Christie replied. “I’m just a kid from Jersey who feels like he’s the luckiest guy in the world to have the opportunity that I have to be the governor of my state.”
Later, he added, “I thank you for what you’re saying and I take it in, and I’m listening to every word of it and feeling it.”
“It isn’t a burden,” Christie said of those who are putting pressure on him to enter the 2012 race. “Fact of the matter is, that anybody who had an ego large enough to say, ‘Oh, please, please, please stop asking me to be leader of the free world. It’s such a burden. If you could please just stop.’ I mean what kind of crazy egomaniac would you have to be to say, ‘Stop, stop’?”
Christie continued, “It’s extraordinarily flattering, 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.”
If he had jumped into the race, Christie would have faced many hurdles. Some candidates have been campaigning for more than a year and have significant infrastructures in place in early primary states. Christie would have been starting from scratch.
And while big-name Republicans were encouraging Christie behind the scenes, he was not on top in recent national polls.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday morning showed Christie in the middle of the 2012 Republican pack with 11 percent support, alongside Ron Paul. In the lead is Mitt Romney with 22 percent, then Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 15 percent, Herman Cain with 14 percent, and both Paul and Christie with 11 percent.
Forty-two percent of Republicans and voters who lean Republican said they’d like him to get into the race, but 34 percent would not and 24 percent are undecided.