SIMI VALLEY, California – Shooting down incessant rumors, speculation and open calls from fellow Republicans for his candidacy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he will not make a presidential run in 2012.
Tuesday night in Calif., Christie called the repeated requests for a presidential run a great honor and said he was flattered by the attention but has nonetheless decided to beg off.
“There are a lot of people who have asked me about this,” Christie noted with a measure of understatement. Three times during a brief question and answer period following a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the self-proclaimed “kid from Jersey” was asked about 2012 and each time said he will forego a presidential run.
At first, Christie told the audience of 900 people to watch an edited montage of his past statements on the internet. He used humor with the second questioner, a New Jersey native who said her mother wanted him to run. “I’ve got an airplane. I can take you back right now,” he said.
But it was the third time that really brought out the feelings of the room and the non-candidate himself. A woman nearly broke down into tears begging Christie to change his mind. “We can’t wait another four years to 2016,” she said. “I really implore you as a citizen of this country to please, sir, reconsider.” The audience erupted in applause in obvious support of a Christie candidacy. Once again, his answer wasn’t the one the crowd wanted.
“I hear exactly what you are saying and I feel the passion with which you say it,” Christie told the woman and then said “it’s extraordinarily flattering, but by the same token that heartfelt message you gave me is also not a reason for me to do it. That reason has to reside in me.”
Non-candidate Christie did offer his view on a current debate over immigration and education playing out among those fighting for the GOP nomination. In response to a questioner about his views, Christie said he absolutely rejects any effort to offer college tuition breaks to illegal residents.
That counter-position is held by Texas Gov. Rick Perry who at last week’s Fox News-Google debate questioned the heart of people, like presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who would deny illegal students the financial break. “That is not a heartless position,” Christie boomed. “That is a common sense position.”
Christie’s answers to the audience followed a 26 minute speech that featured a biting critique of President Obama’s record and leadership.
“We watch a president who once talked about the courage of his convictions, but still has yet found the courage to lead,” Christie said while contrasting Obama with President Reagan whom he said would have little difficulty in charting a course towards fixing today’s economic problems.
Christie also took aim at Congress for failing to compromise in recent debates over government spending but saved his sharpest barbs for the president. At one point Christie quoted a remark Obama made in 2004 about civility and the need to unify for the common good of the country. It was a quote that was featured prominently during Obama’s first presidential campaign. “Now, seven years later, President Obama prepares to divide our nation to achieve re-election,” Christie declared. “This is not a leadership style. This is a re-election strategy. Telling those who are scared and struggling that the only way their lives can get better is to diminish the success of others.”
In addition to the continued economic sluggishness at home, Christie said the political intransigence in Washington has also led to a diminution of America’s standing throughout the world. He quoted an indignant European official who questioned how the United States government could have the temerity to interject itself into efforts to solve Europe’s economic woes when lawmakers in Washington seem incapable of fixing their own problems.