WASHINGTON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, saying, "Now is not my time," announced Tuesday he will not seek the Republican nomination for president — leaving the GOP field all but set.
"For me, the answer was never anything but no," he said. Christie described how he loves his job as governor.
He said he toyed with the idea of running because "I felt an obligation to earnestly consider” the advice of numerous Republicans who were encouraging him to seek the White House. The clamor for the 49-year-old first-term governor reflects discomfort among many in the GOP with the party’s current slate of presidential candidates.
"In the end, what I've always felt was the right decision was the right decision today. Now is not my time. I have a commitment to New Jersey that I simply will not abandon," he said.
"New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me."
Christie was widely viewed as the best hope of seriously challenging the two Republican front-runners, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
“I don’t think it says anything particular about the field,” Christie said. “I’d like to think it says something about me.”
But thanks to Perry’s stumbles in recent debates, Romney has vaulted back into a lead in some presidential preference polls. But the polls also show voters are still open-minded about a candidate.
“They see an unusual opportunity to get rid of (President Barack) Obama,” and they want to make sure they get it right, said Steven Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition. Iowa holds the nation’s first Republican caucus.
But time is running out for someone new to make an impact. South Carolina now plans to hold its first-in-the-South primary Jan. 21, meaning Iowa and New Hampshire are likely to hold their contests earlier in January.
That leaves about three months for campaigning — hardly enough time, say the experts, to gain name recognition and money.
The early contests “tend to help someone like Romney, who has a large head start,” said Dante Scala, associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.
Christie, however, said time and a condensed campaign schedule wouldn’t have been a problem.
“I’d just get in,” he said. “This isn’t hard. I’ve run campaigns before. If you want to get in, you get in.”
Still, the campaign clock, resources and the doggedness of the top-tier Republican candidates would have made the New Jersey governor’s path to the GOP nomination a daunting one, according to several political analysts.
Though Christie has received a lot of media attention in recent weeks, he is far from a household name, even among Republicans.
A CBS News poll found that nearly 70 percent of Americans were undecided about Christie or hadn’t heard enough about him. In the Northeast, Christie’s backyard, 52 percent of voters were undecided or had no opinion about him.
In addition, Christie wasn’t even in the race and was already under attack by some conservative Republicans, tea party supporters, bloggers and GOP presidential candidates over his conservative credentials.
While many Republicans laud Christie for being against abortion, cutting spending in New Jersey and taking on the state’s unions, they are uncomfortable with his support of same-sex civil unions, support for the federal ban on assault weapons, and his call for revamping immigration laws to include a path to citizenship.
In rejecting a presidential run, Christie also shot down talk of being anyone’s choice for vice president, saying that his hard-charging personality made it difficult for him to play a subordinate role.
“Seriously, can you imagine?” he said. “The guy would probably want to get a food taster, seriously, I just don’t see it. I don’t see it happening. I don’t long for that job. I’m not looking for that job. After everything I’ve said today, this is the job I want.”
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