UNION CITY, NJ — In his first event since his decisive victory last night, Chris Christie took questions from reporters and almost all the questions had one thing in common: 2016, 2016, 2016.
Will he be distracted by the constant talk in the coming years? No, he said, “I don’t get distracted very easily.”
Can he ignore it? “Sure.”
Is it flattering or does he find it burdensome? “Flattering,” he said without hesitation.
Christie returned to the heavily Democratic, heavily Latino city for a press conference, but it was more like a victory lap after last night’s win. He held his last campaign rally in Union City on Monday, urging the mostly Hispanic crowd to vote for him.
During an almost constant barrage for close to an hour, Christie deflected every type of possible 2016 question, but he seemed to enjoy the back and forth. When asked if he is planning on making any adjustments to his personal style or will “tone down” his famous brashness, Christie said no, noting that New Jersey seems to like his style. “Right now the only people I have to worry about are the people who live in the confines of this state.”
“This is who I am,” Christie said.
The New Jersey governor who won re-election Tuesday, beating his opponent, Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono 60 percent to 38 percent, said he “simply won’t let” the 2016 constant chatter be a distraction.
“In 2010 and 2011 there was enormous speculation about me running for president then, and I got asked about it almost at every press conference even though the entire time I would say, No, I’m not running,” Christie said. “So I’ve gone through this before…. But I am going to be really clear about this: I have a job to do, I was re-elected to do a job last night and I’m not worried about all this stuff. If there is a time comes when I change my mind on that and I decide to do something else, I’ll tell the people of New Jersey I want to do something, but this is what I want to do, that’s why I ran for re-election.”
When asked if the near-constant speculation about his possible White House ambitions is annoying or flattering, Christie answered, “It’s flattering, I love people who pretend that it would be annoying or a burden.” If someone is asked about presidential ambitions and their answer is “stop annoying me,” they are “lying.”
If you are “burdened by that, get out of the business.”
In his speech last night Christie sent a clear message to Washington, telling the crowd in Asbury Park that working together, including across the aisle, is the only way to get things done and the way to win. When asked if his message translates nationally he said he think some “people think politics is too complicated, it’s not that complex.”
Of course what was not said is that this message of appealing to traditionally Democratic constituencies, who voted for Christie yesterday, will be key to any possible presidential campaign.
“People in New Jersey rewarded me with the personal relationship we had and with a broad spectrum of people voting for me last night that had not voted for a Republican in a long time and didn’t vote for me four years ago,” said Christie. “That’s what I said in the speech last night, if Washington is confused by how to do this look at New Jersey.”
Before he took questions, Christie toured a school here and spoke to the press with a large group of students behind him.
Last night Christie also promised to finish the rebuilding after superstorm Sandy hit the state last year, calling it his mission. Wednesday he was asked if he would be able to keep that promise if he left the state early to run for president.
“I’m going to finish the job,” Christie said. “And I’ll do all it takes.”
Christie also stressed that “effective government” is what people all over the country, even in red states, are most concerned with, another message that will be sure to be part of any possible 2016 pitch.
“I don’t care if you are a conservative, if you are a liberal, or somewhere in between, nobody is amused or entertained or gratified by what is going on in Washington, D.C.,” Christie said.
Before the 2012 election, Christie was constantly asked if he would make a late entry into the presidential race, but he did say then he felt he wasn’t prepared enough. Today when asked if he now felt more prepared, he answered, “Every day that you do a job like this one makes you a better executive.”
“I am a better executive today than when I answered those questions about two years ago, so you would think that would make me a better prepared for president,” Christie said, adding he doesn’t think of it in that context.