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Gov. Christie: ‘Now is not my time’

TRENTON - He's out.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks about comedians that were making jokes about his weight Tuesday after announcing he would not seek the Republican nomination for President. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks about comedians that were making jokes about his weight Tuesday after announcing he would not seek the Republican nomination for President. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)Read more

TRENTON - He's out.

For nearly an hour Tuesday, in a room too small to hold the assembled journalists, the first-term governor of the nation's 11th-biggest state said he would not run for president, despite months of pleas from supporters across the country.

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

The Republican, 49, said he wasn't ready to endorse a GOP candidate and had no desire to be anyone's vice president.

But since he wanted to be "employed in the future," he left the door open for a 2016 presidential run.

"Now is not my time," he said at the Statehouse news conference. "I have a commitment to New Jersey that I simply will not abandon."

Christie had been discussed as a presidential contender since shortly after he took office last year, but he has denied his interest in a series of definitive, and often colorful, statements. At one point, he threatened to commit suicide to prove he was not running.

Rumors about a candidacy intensified 10 days ago after news reports, based on anonymous sources, that Christie was reconsidering a run given the weak presidential field and aggressive courting from deep-pocketed Republicans.

Speculation was further fueled days later when Christie gave a well-received speech at the Reagan Presidential Library in California in which he criticized President Obama and, indirectly, presidential candidate Rick Perry.

On Tuesday, at the most-well-attended news briefing of his term, Christie acknowledged for the first time that he and his wife, Mary Pat, had discussed his jumping into the race.

"Three weeks ago, Mary Pat woke me up at 6 in the morning and said, 'If you want to run, go for it, go for it, and don't worry about me and the kids. We'll be fine,' " he said.

Christie began to reconsider, he said, after receiving encouragement not just from powerful people. He cited a Nebraska farmer who FedEx-ed a letter to Christie's children and told them that "they would be remembered in the history books as the people who helped change the course of a country's history" if they persuaded their father to run.

"When you have serious people from across the spectrum - not to mention from all across the country - passionately calling on you to do something as consequential as running for president of the United States, I felt an obligation to honestly consider their advice," Christie said.

But New Jersey's pull proved irresistible. While dining out Friday with his wife and son, Christie said, people approached him and said, "I really hope you run for president if that's what you want to do, but I'll really miss you here."

Over the weekend, Christie told his staff to leave him alone. He hoped to make a decision by the end of the weekend, but it took an extra day. He decided Monday night against a run and ordered his staff to call the news conference for Tuesday morning.

"My commitment to the state is what overrode everything else," Christie said at the briefing, which was broadcast live on television outlets. "I asked for this job. I fought hard to get this job. And my job here isn't done. And it just never felt right to me to leave now."

Christie dismissed the notion of running for vice president with a statement he has used before: "I don't think there's anybody in America who thinks my personality is best suited to be No. 2."

The governor is a now shoo-in to be the keynote speaker at the Republican convention in August, said political scientist Ben Dworkin of Rider University's Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics.

That would set him up for 2016, Dworkin said, just as Obama used his 2004 Democratic convention keynote as a "launching pad."

Christie's announcement is good news for New Jersey Republicans, whose best fund-raiser and most effective cheerleader now will have more time to campaign on their behalf in the coming election.

"Rather than just supplying ammunition to the national liberal blogosphere and pundits, who would then attack Christie, the state's Democrats will have to fight the governor themselves," Dworkin wrote in an e-mail. "To date, they have not been particularly effective at this task."

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D., Essex) released a statement Tuesday expressing her relief that "we're past this silliness."

"A governor who has presided over painful property-tax hikes, paid little attention to job creation, opposed new job training, showed no regard for health care for women and the poor, made college more expensive, and ignored the needs of impoverished cities had no business even considering running for president," she said.

Christie, however, will maintain a national profile. He indicated he would travel in his capacity as vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association. And he could be a surrogate on the campaign trail for the Republican nominee.

The governor spoke at length about the national media's preoccupation with his weight as his name recognition increased. He said that he was "not self-conscious" about the topic and that he thought David Letterman's "Top 10 Ways the Country Would be Different If Chris Christie Were President" was funny.

His son Andrew would call him to the computer and say, "Hey, Dad, did you see this one?"

"So he's been grounded," Christie quipped.

But Christie distinguished between comedy and the commentary of pundits such as Michael Kinsley, who wrote that Christie was too fat to be president.

"The people who pretend to be serious commentators who wrote about this are among the most ignorant people I've ever heard in my life," he said.

"To say that because you are overweight you are therefore undisciplined - I don't think undisciplined people get to achieve great positions in our society."