New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, declaring "now is not my time," definitively announced Tuesday that he will not run for president in 2012.
The governor, after denying for months any interest in running, used a press conference in Trenton to attempt to extinguish the speculation for good. He said the answer "was never anything but no." He acknowledged that he and his family had been compelled to "rethink" that stance in recent weeks given the intense pressure on the tough-talking governor to throw his name in the ring.
In the end, he said, "We came out in the same spot."
Christie said "unfinished business" in New Jersey was the overriding factor in his decision, and dismissed any suggestion that his family did not want him to enter.
"People sent me to Trenton to get a job done, and I'm just not prepared to walk away," he said. "My loyalty to this state is what it is."
He added: "New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me."
In recent weeks, Christie had been meeting with family members and advisers as many high-profile Republicans urged him to seek the nomination. Stirring the pot even more, Christie had been silent in the face of reporters' questions in the last few days.
Christie said he made his "final decision" Monday night, while leaving the door open for a bid sometime down the road.
"I'm not going to preclude any chances," Christie said.
The news conference comes after a string of denials from Christie about having any interest in running. At one point, he joked that he'd have to "commit suicide" to convince the political class he's not a presidential candidate. But speculation heated up after Texas Gov. Rick Perry started falling in the polls following a blockbuster entrance in August.
A source close to the governor said Christie was listening to the appeals, but speculated that the recent announcements by states that they're moving up primaries, as well as "unfinished business" in New Jersey, helped dissuade him. The early primaries would give Christie even less time to mount a Republican primary bid.
"He was thinking he wasn't going to run for the longest time. His interest did get piqued due to Perry, due to the encouragement, but I think the reality of putting together the campaign ... proved to be at the end of the day a little too big of a hill to climb," the source said.
Christie said the prospect of running this time "just never felt right to me."
The governor, who has made it his mission to get New Jersey's finances under control in large part by confronting the public-employee unions over their benefits, said repeatedly that he still has work to do in the Garden State and would not be comfortable leaving.
In the lengthy and playful press conference, Christie also addressed questions about his weight. He said it is "ignorant" for anyone in the media to suggest his weight reflects poorly on his personal discipline. But he said he has no problem with comedians poking fun at his physique.
"As long as they're funny, what the hell do I care?" he said.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is the most recent high-name Republican to urge Christie to join the race, with a spokesman telling the Columbus Dispatch that Kasich thinks Christie would be a good candidate.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday revealed that Christie would earn 10 percent of the vote in the GOP primary off the bat. That puts him below Mitt Romney, Perry and Herman Cain, but above the other declared candidates.
Asked whether they would like to see Christie run, 42 percent said yes, 34 percent said no and 24 percent answered that they had no opinion. In the poll of 1,002 adults taken Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 43 percent said the more they hear about Christie the more they like him. Twenty-three percent like him less and 20 percent said they hadn't heard enough.