Christie Says Presidential Talk Won’t Divert His Focus

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attends his election night event after winning a second term on November 5, 2013, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Photographer: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who won a lopsided re-election victory yesterday in Democratic-leaning New Jersey, said he won’t be diverted by talk of a possible 2016 presidential bid as he heads into his second term.

Christie, 51, said today entreaties to seek the White House can be “flattering,” as someone who makes such a suggestion “thinks you can do it well enough that you might be worthy of consideration for the most important leadership job in this country.” However, he said, “I don’t get distracted easily.”

Among his second-term priorities, Christie said he’ll push for more charter schools and vouchers. Speaking at a Union City school, he also said it’s time to examine the possibility of in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants. The governor said he believes he has become a better executive than he was two years ago, when he declined appeals to run for president from Republican supporters. He won with 60 percent of the vote, an Associated Press tally shows.

His crushing victory over state Senator Barbara Buono, a Metuchen Democrat, gives him “a narrative” for a 2016 White House run, according to Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, a Washington newsletter.

Christie attracted political independents with his leadership after Hurricane Sandy struck in October 2012, and pre-election surveys showed almost a third of Democrats supported him, along with a majority of women. That cross-party appeal and backing from voters who often lean Democratic may bolster a view of Christie’s general-election chances yet it may hamper him in Republican primaries.

Obama Embrace

In Sandy’s aftermath of devastation, Christie embraced President Barack Obama, earning the enmity of some in his party’s leadership, who faulted him for boosting the president’s re-election campaign just days before the Nov. 6 vote last year. Today, Obama called him before leaving for a fundraising event in Dallas, according to Jay Carney, a White House spokesman.

“Obviously, he and the governor have spent a lot of time together, in person and on the phone, because of superstorm Sandy,” Carney told reporters.

While saying he plans to focus on New Jersey, the governor said he hopes to use his position as chairman of the Republican Governors Association to expand the party’s ranks in statehouses nationwide. As head of the group, he plans to travel the country to help Republican candidates raise money and get elected. That may give him a chance to enhance his national visibility and win favors from party leaders in key states.

New Hampshire

Also today, the New Hampshire Republican State Committee said a Christie campaign aide, Matt Mowers, will become its executive director, in a statement on Twitter Inc.’s website. Mowers was a regional political director for the governor’s re-election drive. The Granite State is a crucial part of the presidential vetting process as it traditionally holds the first primary of the race.

As governor, Christie said he doesn’t plan to tone down his public persona to broaden his appeal to a national audience. In his first term, Christie was criticized after he called the only openly gay lawmaker a “numb-nuts” and when he implored reporters to “take a bat out on” one of his political opponents in Trenton, state Senator Loretta Weinberg.

“This is who I am,” he said today. “You’re asking me at 51 years old to become another person.”

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