Christie takes major step in possible White House run
NEWARK, New Jersey (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a high-profile Republican, has taken his firmest step yet toward running for president, launching an organization that allows him to raise money for a potential 2016 campaign.
While not a formal entry into the race, opening the political action committee is the clearest sign yet that Christie will seek the Republican presidential nomination.
If he runs, Christie could find himself competing for support and donations with 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush - two favorites of the Republican establishment who have greater national profiles.
Bush, the son and brother of presidents, announced in December he was launching a similar organization. That kicked off an aggressive race to lock down donors and may have drawn Romney into the race.
“We believe there’s a void right now in leadership throughout the country,” Christie’s chief political adviser Mike DuHaime told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news. “We aim to support candidates who are willing to take on tough problems and make tough decisions.”
While the Republican race to succeed President Barack Obama is seen as wide open, Democrats are expected to heavily favor Hillary Rodham Clinton if she launches another presidential campaign.
Christie’s creation of the political action committee, called Leadership Matters for America, was widely expected. The former federal prosecutor has been in the Republican Party’s presidential discussion since 2012, when he passed on the race and was later considered by Romney as a potential running mate.
Christie’s campaign is likely to focus on many of the themes he’s spent years developing in New Jersey, including a pitch that he can expand the Republican Party’s tent by appealing to independent, women and minority voters, who helped him win re-election in his heavily Democratic state in 2013.
But Christie also has challenges to overcome, including the still-pending federal investigation into accusations that former staff members and appointees created traffic jams as political payback against the Democratic mayor of a New York suburb by blocking access lanes to the heavily traveled George Washington Bridge into Manhattan.
He’s also dogged by questions about the economy of New Jersey, including several recent downgrades of the state’s credit rating and sluggish job growth. Christie is also viewed with distrust in certain conservative circles, while others question whether his brash persona and habit of confrontation will play well outside his home state.
Asked what the launch of the PAC said about his presidential aspirations, Christie appeared to distance himself from the effort.
“It says that there are a group of people who want to be supportive of me continuing to look at the problems in the country. And so I’m happy that they want to do that, I’m honored that they’ve asked me to be the honorary chair of it and it’ll proceed as it proceeds and we’ll see. But nothing more than that,” Christie said at a briefing on a snowstorm hitting the U.S. Northeast.