At Rider U. event, Christie talks politics, but again says he won't run

Christie greets Daniels at the forum. Both said whoever wins the GOP nomination must vow to cut spending.
Christie greets Daniels at the forum. Both said whoever wins the GOP nomination must vow to cut spending.
Posted: September 23, 2011

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. - Two wish-list presidential candidates offered unsolicited advice to the current Republican contenders on Thursday: Be more like us.

During what was billed as a "conversation" on stage before more than 300 students and others at Rider University's Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, Gov. Christie interviewed his friend and fellow fiscal conservative, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, and repeated that he's not running for president.

Yet Daniels seemed to open the door just a tad for a possible Christie run.

"I'm not taking 'no' from Christie; I'm taking 'not yet,' " Daniels said.

In a press briefing after the event, Daniels said that it was a "spur of the moment" comment and that he assumes that Christie, 49, is still a presidential "cycle or two away."

But the nature of the men's comments about the current candidates - deemed deeply flawed by some pundits and party faithful - indicated that both think they have something to teach Republican contenders.

"Look at the two of us. It is not our good looks that they're clamoring for," Christie said of the repeated requests to run. "They're not saying, 'There's a spot open on Mount Rushmore, and oh, man, these are the guys for it.' I think it's because of our ideas, because of what we have chosen to emphasize as governors."

Despite a flurry of reports this week that Christie could be, maybe, possibly, thinking about jumping in any day now, he made no such indication Thursday.

Daniels, who months ago made a speech to affirm that he wasn't running, spoke of his accomplishments in Indiana with a mellow Midwestern drawl. He said that a medical savings account he created for public workers saved money in several ways and that he shrank the public workforce to levels not seen since before 1976.

The former director of the federal Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush visited New Jersey during his East Coast tour for his new book, Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans.

"Government is a pretty klutzy mechanism, and you ought to be very modest and humble about thinking it can do anything well," Daniels said.

President Obama is in "really bad shape" for reelection, Daniels said. "I hope our nominee, and there's lots of time for this, will have a little more confidence in the American people."

Therefore, Christie said, it is his and Daniels' role to "prod" the Republican candidates to talk about important issues, such as reforming entitlement programs.

Despite both governors' assertion that they were saying something different from the presidential candidates, their 40-minute conversation - which ended with three questions from Rider University College Republicans - lacked details and didn't stray far from GOP boilerplate.

Christie said that both he and Daniels had "lots of political experts and interested parties and genuine good Americans" asking them to run, but that he tells them: "When I'm in a hotel room in Des Moines and it's 5:30 in the morning and it's 15 below, and it's time for me to get up and go shake hands at the meatpacking plant, the only one who's going to be in bed with me is [wife] Mary Pat, not you."

In other words, the decision against running was made by Christie and his family. Similarly, Daniels says his family didn't want him to run.

But as long as candidates are unwilling to tell Americans "hard truths," Christie and Daniels expect to be courted.

"The fact that nobody yet running for president, in my view, has done that effectively is why you continue to hear people ask Daniels to reconsider and ask me to reconsider," he said.


Contact staff writer Matt Katz at 609-217-8355, mkatz@phillynews.com, or @mattkatz00 on Twitter. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at philly.com/christiechronicles.

 

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