SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie takes over the reins of the Republican Governors Association this week at its annual conference, and his future and possible presidential aspirations are among the hot topics, at least for the press.
Outgoing association head Gov. Bobby Jindal, like many of the other 26 governors expected to attend, is also considered a possible 2016 contender, and he took a pass when asked whether Christie, seen as somewhat of a Republican savior since his landslide victory earlier this month, would be a good presidential candidate.
“I know everybody in this room wants to do a story on 2016, the way you win is you win the next election, not the next, next election,” Jindal said, not answering the question. “Let’s go win those elections.”
The Louisiana governor expected the interest, beginning his remarks at a news conference here saying, “Probably one of the first questions we will get asked about is who is running for 2016? Which personality? Who’s up? Who’s down? The reality is we have got a lot of elections we need to focus on in 2014.”
Jindal did say he thinks Christie will do a “great job raising funds for the RGA” and a “great job campaigning across the country for our incumbent governors and challengers as well.”
The annual conference is at the posh Phoenician hotel here and while GOP staffers, vendors and politicians strategize and socialize this week, it’s clear that Christie’s big win in his re-election bid this month is casting a shadow over not only the conference, but the party.
Newspaper stories from around the country have been blown up by the ballrooms touting Republican governors’ successes and several of them highlighted Christie’s big win, featuring his smiling face.
Christie, 51, didn’t have any public news events Wednesday, but for the governors who did, they fielded a lot of questions about the New Jersey governor.
In a separate news conference, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio was asked whether Christie’s style, which appealed to voters in his blue state but has been criticized by some Republicans as too moderate, would also work on voters in red states and swing states he will visit as the new head of the RGA.
Kasich, another possible 2016 contender, called Christie “a force” and said “people want to be around him.”
“People like him and he’s got one other thing going for him; it’s called celebrity and in case you haven’t noticed, that’s a big darn deal in America today,” Kasich said, calling Christie a “friend,” a “buddy” and a “big teddy bear.”
Kasich continued, when asked about Christie’s celebrity factor, saying, “I think it’s true no matter what you run for that people want to see, by and large, a little bit of spark.”
“I don’t think it’s the dominant factor with Chris Christie. I’m just saying one of the factors is, he’s a celebrity so that helps,” Kasich said, adding, “I think if you don’t have a little pizzazz it’s hard to get anybody to notice. So I don’t think you can work on pizzazz. You either have it or you don’t.”
When asked whether his direct personality that has gotten him so much fame in his home state, but has been criticized, would play well in the rest of the country, Kasich said, “Look, Chris is a very smart man and we all evolve in these jobs, we all change, and he’ll look at how he’s doing. He will have good advisers, I hope, who will tell him certain things.”
“You guys can’t get enough of him,” Kasich then said to the press that continued to pepper him with questions about the Republican superstar.
Kasich wouldn’t say whether Christie is the “frontrunner” for 2016, saying, “things have a way of twisting and turning. It’s a long way out.”