N.J. Gov. Chris Christie Says ‘I’m Not Running,’ But Skeptics Abound

ABC News’ Olivia Katrandjian, Michael Falcone and Jennifer Wlach report:

It appears that some Republican donors simply won’t take “no” for an answer from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Speculation is again running high that Christie, who has been a much-sought-after potential presidential candidate, is keeping the door open — perhaps just a crack — to jumping into the 2012 race.

Sources close to the Republican governor told ABC News that “the pressure from donors and other people has intensified,” and that the “volume of calls” urging Christie to run have increased.

An article that appeared on the conservative website, Newsmax, on Friday evening sparked a new flurry of will-he-or-won’t-he rumors. The story said that Christie was rethinking his decision to stay out of the nominating contest and would “let top Republican donors know within days about his plans.”

Newsmax’s Jim Meyers reported that “the effort to draft Christie culminated in a hush-hush powwow held in the past week with Christie and several notable Republican billionaires.”

And, the New York Post, on Saturday quoted an unnamed Republican source, who said that Christie was under “huge pressure from high-ranking Republicans and fund-raisers” and that “he’ll decide this week,” whether or not to seek the nomination.

Despite the reports, a source close to the governor told ABC News, “nothing has changed.”

But next week Christie will likely come face-to-face with some of the big-money GOP contributors who are hoping to lure him into the race. On Monday, he opens a week-long fundraising tour that will take him to at least three states — Missouri, California and Louisiana. His schedule includes stops in Clayton, Mo., Santa Ana, Calif. and Beverly Hills. He will also deliver a speech on Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., the site one of this month’s Republican presidential debates.

(Christie’s speech at the Reagan Library was scheduled before the latest round of speculation about his presidential ambitions began.)

Talk of a potential Christie candidacy has been fueled, in part, by some segments of the Republican Party who remain skeptical that any member of the current presidential field will be able to beat President Obama in Nov. 2012. Current front-runner Rick Perry’s lackluster debate performance on Thursday night in Florida did not help matters.

Nevertheless, the denials from Christie keep coming.

On Thursday, at Rider University, the New Jersey governor repeated his claim that he is not running. But Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who was also at the event, would not take “no” for an answer.

“I’m not taking no from Christie … I’m taking ‘Not yet,’” Daniels said. “He’s doing so many good things for your state. Your state needs him to keep on.” (According to news reports, Daniels clarified that his comment was “spur of the moment” and that he believed that Christie was a “cycle or two away” from running.)

Earlier this year in an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, 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 just a few months earlier, during a speech in Washington, DC, 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 Christie did not leave this Thursday’s event at Rider University before taking a subtle stab at the current Republican presidential candidates.

“I think what the country is thirsting for, more than anything else right now, is someone of stature and credibility to tell them that and say, ‘Here’s where I want us to go to deal with this crisis,’” he said. “The fact that nobody yet who’s running for president, in my view, has done that effectively is why you continue to hear people ask Daniels if he’ll reconsider and ask me if I’ll reconsider.”