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Christie's popularity sparks a move to track him

WHERE'S Chris Christie? These days, just about everywhere. (And everywhere in the news - is he running, or isn't he? And forget those tax breaks for Snooki and "Jersey Shore.")

WHERE'S Chris Christie? These days, just about everywhere. (And everywhere in the news - is he running, or isn't he? And forget those tax breaks for Snooki and "Jersey Shore.")

If you're in New Jersey, it's a safe bet he's been in or near your hometown at some point. Since he took office in January 2010, the governor has held 56 town-hall meetings all over the state. These are the sessions at which Christie engages with New Jersey residents in frank and lively exchanges that often make national news.

Christie also appears on a regular radio program called "Ask the Governor" and is a veritable fixture on New York and Philadelphia newscasts and at events throughout the Garden State.

During Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, there even appeared to be multiple Christies. He was at storm-control HQ just outside Trenton or, almost simultaneously, at any one of dozens of storm-ravaged areas, surveying damage, listening to residents, commandeering aid, thanking and encouraging first-responders and doing everything he could to lift the spirits of New Jerseyans.

As New Jersey was assaulted by back-to-back storms, he seemed to work without a break.

I know of no New Jersey governor (with the possible exception of Richard J. Hughes, who served from 1962 to 1970) who's been more visible and accessible than Christie. And, surely, no governor has been easier to spot. C'mon . . . it's not like you can't find Christie if you're looking for him.

And yet this doesn't seem to be enough for some people - at least not for state Sen. Loretta Weinberg and some other state Democrats and liberal activists.

Weinberg is pushing legislation that would amount to a sort of Christie surveillance tool. It would require the governor to notify the Legislature's top leaders any time he leaves the state. Well, New Jersey is only 70 miles wide and 170 miles from top to bottom, so at times it can seem a bit confining. And the governor has become a national figure who's in demand all over the country (he spoke at the Reagan Library in California on Tuesday), which means he sometimes leaves the state. He says this is helpful because he promotes a positive public image for the state and tells the story of how New Jersey is emerging from its economic troubles and getting back on track. (While trying to undo some of the damage from Snooki & Co.)

But Democrats are particularly bothered by a Christie visit to a private retreat hosted by billionaire oil tycoon and conservative financier David Koch and his brother earlier this year. In introducing Christie at the event, Koch revealed that the two had met other for two hours in the Koch's Manhattan office in February.

I say, so what?

As for Christie, he says he's followed current law and turned power over to the lieutenant governor when he's out of state. But he declines to give an account of each and every one of his non-job-related comings and goings.

"I have meetings with people all the time, private meetings that aren't disclosed. I don't put out my private schedule every day nor will I ever, nor has any other governor," Christie argues.

"You're not entitled to know everything," he told the media. "As long as it's not involving my job, I'm not announcing it."

This is the type of refreshing and frank answer that makes folks from outside New Jersey want to see, hear and be in the presence of the real live Christie.

It also bears noting that other Jersey governors have enjoyed a quite generous "zone of privacy." Jim McGreevey comes to mind - but that's all I'll say about that.

For his part, Christie says he doesn't want reporters following his family around on vacation and during his down time. As a busy man whose time is a valued commodity, Christie often combines informal meetings with travel.

Christie predecessor Jon Corzine traveled extensively and spent a great deal of time in Manhattan while governor.

No one sought a law to rein him in. Indeed, state lawmakers and other leaders appeared all too willing to go out of their way to meet elsewhere with the enigmatic Corzine, a native of Illinois who always seemed uncomfortable within the boundaries of New Jersey.