New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces that he will not seek the Republican… (Michael Bryant / Philadelphia…)
Having seen Republicans churn through one candidate after another this year, Chris Christie seemed acutely aware Tuesday of how fleeting political fame can be. So he made the most of his moment as he announced he would not run for president, demonstrating both the candor and assuredness that has made him a conservative favorite.
It was observed by some that Christie may have taken more questions in the 50-minute news conference than some of the announced candidates have in the entire campaign. He explained that he just never quite got to the point where he was ready to give up on the commitment he made to New Jerseyans when they elected him.
"New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me," he said.
He made his final decision last night, Christie said, after being forced to reconsider his initial reluctance by the demand on him to do so.
"We got a FedEx over the weekend at home from a farmer in Nebraska ... asking my children to sit me down and tell me that it was OK to miss their games and their concerts and their events because our country needed me more," he said.
About 25 minutes into the news conference, carried live on the major cable news networks, Christie said that the speculation about him running "was not something that I stoked." Christie won election to the governorship only 23 months ago, he noted. It was a job he always wanted, he worked hard to get there, and he has made a lot of progress fixing his "broken" state, he said.
"This is not the time to leave unfinished business for me. The stakes are too high and the consequences are too real," he said. It was a sentiment he came back to repeatedly, bringing to mind its contrast with a certain former governor who did leave office midterm.
"The deciding factor was it did not feel right to me in my gut to leave now when the job here is not finished. And I could never get by that," he continued.
Oh, and about that gut.
Christie said he was unfazed by the jokes about his girth, saying it was hardly a "news flash" to him that he was overweight. He said he even enjoyed some of David Letterman's seemingly endless jabs, though he quibbled with analysts who questioned whether he could serve.
Even as Republicans may be stuck with the field as it is, Christie said he doesn't plan on keeping his opinions to himself, even from the sidelines. He pointed to his speech last week at the Reagan library as summarizing his governing philosophy and making the case against President Obama.
"You can't be taught how to lead and how to make decisions. And unfortunately, even though there are areas, as you know, that I support this president in, overall he's failed the American people, because he's failed that absolute litmus test to be president of the United States," he said.
He seemed to rule out a spot on a Republican ticket in 2012, but not running for the top job in the future.
"I have interest in being employed in the future, and I'm not going to preclude any employment in the future," he said.
He also wouldn't rule out an endorsement in the GOP race, but not for some time.
"You know, as I've said before, I'm not a halfway kind of guy. If I feel like there's someone in the field who ... gives us the best chance to defeat the president, I'll endorse that person and I'll work hard for that person," he said.