NO MEANS NO: Christie's gut tells him he's not ready to run for

Posted: October 05, 2011

IT LASTED about as long as an episode of "The Sopranos," but Chris Christie's big announcement yesterday wasn't the New Jersey finale that conservatives were hoping for.

Speculation over Christie's presidential aspirations came full circle, a long, circuitous route that took him to speaking engagements across the country with reporters in tow, the glowing embers of a GOP nomination that was one source or rumor away from turning into a full-blown campaign to unseat President Obama next year. Then he was back at his podium in Trenton yesterday, repeating pretty much what he's been saying for nearly a year when asked if he'll run for president.

Fat chance.

"In the end, the answer always remained the same," Christie told a roomful of reporters at the Statehouse.

Christie didn't resort to suicide, as he joked he would, to prove that he wasn't running, yet no matter how many times he insisted that he wasn't ready or that his heart wasn't in it, the drums kept beating, louder and louder, until just a few hours before yesterday's news conference, when it seemed clear that he wasn't.

"The deciding factor was that it did not feel right to me, in my gut, to leave now, when the job isn't finished," Christie said. "And I could never get past that."

New Jersey, Christie said, is where he wants to work, where he belongs with his wife, Mary Pat, and their four children. Since defeating Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine in 2009, Christie has taken on the state's teachers union and public employees, and says that there's plenty of "unfinished business" to attend to. The state's property taxes, for instance, are some of the highest in the country.

"New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me," he said.

During his nearly 50-minute news conference, Christie admitted that he had just recently begun to contemplate the call from conservatives, the wealthy who were willing to fill his coffers with cash, and even the Nebraska farmer who wrote a letter to his son. His wife woke him up at 6 a.m. recently to tell him that she supported him. His kids were also on board, claiming that it would be a "great adventure."

But that "no" never turned into a "yes," he insisted, although it obviously became a "maybe." He said he settled on his final "no" Monday night.

"It was really not a family decision," he said. "In the end, it was all on me."

Christie's "maybe" time validated some news stories in recent weeks, which cited anonymous sources claiming that the governor was re-evaluating his long litany of denials. Though he did speak with Nancy Reagan last week at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, in California, Christie said that media reporting on the conversation had been "careless."

It was at that same event, however, at which Christie wouldn't give a flat-out "no" when asked if he'd run, a peculiar sign from a man known for talking straight.

Ensuing stories claiming that Christie was reconsidering - via anonymous sources - were later blasted by stories claiming that he wasn't. Then the cycle continued, up until this yesterday morning.

One Statehouse reporter noted that none of the stories ever gave any real indication of who was fanning the presidential flames.

"They were just described as people 'familiar with the governor's thinking,' " the reporter said. "What does that mean? It made you wonder if the Christie camp wasn't feeding bogus scoops to hungry reporters."

Mike Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said that he couldn't comment on the anonymous sources but that press attention intensified after the California speech.

"The nature of his reform efforts and his style has been drawing attention for some time, though," Drewniak said.

Reporters who once may have thought Cumberland or Sussex counties were a long haul from Trenton found themselves in airports, following Christie as he stumped for candidates or conservative causes all over the country.

Tom Moran, the editorial-page editor at the Newark Star- Ledger, who once dubbed Christie "Governor Wrecking Ball," said the paper has sent reporters with Christie at every turn.

"Yes, we follow him everywhere he goes," Moran said. "He hates us."

Moran said that Christie was clearly more "nationally ambitious" than previous governors, and he worried that Christie often told "fictitious" stories about his success in the Garden State.

"He exaggerates his role in every reform," Moran said.

Christie said yesterday that he's not interested in being vice president, either, though VP speculation will also likely ramp up by next summer.

He said he hasn't decided on whether he'll seek re-election for governor in 2013, and New Jersey Democrats don't think he's a shoo-in, having alienated the teachers and blue-collar workers of a predominantly blue state.

"His political craftsmanship has been designed for people outside of the state," said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chairman of the state Democratic Party, "He's attacked unions gratuitously, simply to appeal to the right wing."

As Christie ventures farther from New Jersey, though, gaining more and more national exposure, he's also expanding his criticism beyond its borders, saying yesterday that President Obama simply isn't a leader.

"You can't be taught how to lead and how to make decisions," he said. "And unfortunately, even though there are areas, as you know, that I support this president in, overall, he's failed the American people."