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Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has urged Republican presidential candidates to take a harder line on spending and debt, will seek to extend his influence in his party with a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
The governor joined prominent conservatives such as former President George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly who have appeared at the forum. His speech today, titled “Real American Exceptionalism,” is part of the library’s Perspectives in Leadership series,
While Christie, 49, has denied interest in a 2012 White House run, party leaders have intensified calls for him to join the race, according to a Republican close to the governor who declined to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak for him. At the least, Christie may affect the party’s choice, said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University in Lawrenceville.
“He’s a major influence in his party and when the Republicans settle on a nominee, that person is going to have to go to Chris Christie and make sure he’s on board,” Dworkin said in an interview. “Every speech the governor gives ends up at some point with him offering his views on what his party should be doing and what the candidates for president should be doing.”
The first Republican elected governor in New Jersey since 1997 began a national round of speeches and fundraising yesterday even as aides attempted to quash speculation that he’s reconsidering his decision to sit out the Republican primary.
Aide: No Change
Michael Drewniak, a Christie spokesman, said in an e-mail that “nothing at all has changed.”
During a Sept. 22 appearance with Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels at Rider, Christie ruled himself out of next year’s race, while saying the current crop of Republican candidates must address issues such as federal entitlement spending and debt. Christie said even though he and Daniels aren’t running, they need to shape the debate in Washington in a way current candidates aren’t.
“We’re not talking about -- on our side or any of the folks -- these things in a forthright way,” Christie said. “They’re dancing around on other stuff and just trying to get four or five sound bites.”
Daniels said during the appearance that he is “not taking ‘no’” in regards to a Christie presidential bid. “I’m taking ‘not yet,’” he said.
Donors from Florida to Colorado have helped drive a 12-fold increase in fundraising this year from other states for the Republican Party in New Jersey, where all 120 members of the Democratic-controlled Legislature face re-election.
Christie yesterday attended a luncheon for his home state party in Clayton, Missouri, and then a dinner at a private residence for the Missouri Republican Party, according to a schedule released by the New Jersey party.
Today, he is scheduled to attend a morning event for Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican running for Congress, and then head to California for three fundraisers to benefit the New Jersey Republican Party. Christie’s appearance at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, will be later today.
On Sept. 29 he will be in Louisiana to help raise money for that state’s Republican Party Victory Fund.
Christie’s appearance at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, will be later today.
John Wisniewski, New Jersey’s Democratic Party chairman, said he takes Christie’s word the trips don’t signal any intention to seek higher office “with a grain of salt.”
The fundraising allows Christie’s political team to begin compiling a database of donors that can be tapped quickly if he opts for a late entrance into the race, he said.
“He seems to be really enjoying it, and he seems to really be lapping it up,” Wisniewski, an assemblyman from Sayreville, said in an interview. “One has to ask: To what end is he engaging in all of this drama?”
Drewniak said Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno took over yesterday when Christie left the state.
“I could easily get used to this, but I don’t think the governor is running for president,” Guadagno said while signing a bill in Trenton that moves the state’s presidential primary back to June from February.
Christie took office last year after defeating incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine in the 2009 race amid voter dissatisfaction over the state’s high property taxes and sluggish economy.
Christie became a national Republican star after he cut $10 billion in spending on schools, pensions and towns in his first budget.
The governor campaigned across the nation for his party’s candidates in the November 2010 elections, when Republicans captured control of 11 state legislatures.
Since taking office, Christie has headlined Republican fundraisers in states including New York and Pennsylvania, and built up a wellspring of support within his party as he campaigns for Republicans from Massachusetts to New Mexico.
Contributors to New Jersey’s Republican Party this year include New York billionaire John Catsimatidis, who gave $25,000 in June; Kenneth Langone, co-founder of Home Depot Inc., who gave $10,000 in June; and Paul Fireman, founder of Reebok International Ltd., with $25,000 in May, according to campaign finance records.
Christie has said Langone urged him to run for president during a meeting in June. Langone is one of the donors again urging Christie to enter the race, the website Politico reported. Langone has been asking potential donors to hold back on supporting Texas Governor Rick Perry or his top rival, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Politico said.
--Editors: Pete Young, Ted Bunker
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