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Chris Christie leaves 2016 options open, avoiding later headache

October 10, 2013|By Mark Z. Barabak
  • In a debate with his Democratic rival in the gubernatorial election, state Sen. Barbara Buono, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sidestepped a question about running for president in 2016
In a debate with his Democratic rival in the gubernatorial election, state… (Marko Georgiev / Associated…)

Dancing around an obvious question, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie showed some rather deft footwork earlier this week.

In a debate Tuesday night against his overmatched Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, the Republican faced the inevitable query about his ambitions beyond winning reelection to a second term in November. As in: What about that all-but-declared bid for president in 2016?

“I can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Christie said. “I can do this job and also deal with my future. And that’s exactly what I will do.”

He later added, “Listen: My mother told me a long time ago that [you] do the job you have at the moment the best you possibly can and your future will take care of itself. The fact is people have been talking about me running for president in this state since 2010. They all thought I was gonna do it in 2012. I said I wouldn’t and I didn’t. And the fact is after 2017, I’m going to be looking for a new job anyway.”

Pay close attention to what you did not hear: No doors slamming shut. No cement fastening around Christie's feet. No straitjacket tightening around his torso.

Seems simple, sort of like Running For President 101.

But not every candidate handles the question as well, even if they can see it coming from 50 zillion miles away.

In 1994, when he was running for reelection, California's Republican Gov. Pete Wilson was asked if he pledged to serve out his full four-year term. (Here it should be noted that the office of California governor automatically comes with a driver, a seat at the Oscars after-party and a place on the short list of every Presidential Mentioner, great and small, across the land.)

“Yes,” Wilson fatefully replied, a response — and a broken promise — that helped doom the ill-starred White House bid he launched less than a year later.

Christie’s prospects as a presidential hopeful are mixed. He seems to be coasting to a second term in a decidedly blue state, suggesting cross-over appeal the Republicans desperately need in a White House candidate. But there is that steel-wool persona, which can be intermittently effective but may grate after prolonged exposure. And his chummy show with President Obama last year after Hurricane Sandy continues to rankle some of the GOP faithful. 

But at the least Christie managed this week to avoid tripping over his own feet, which is not a bad way to start a run for the White House.

Twitter: @markzbarabak

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