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Chris Christie tries on his candidate hat

at 07:42 AM ET, 09/28/2011

If Chris Christie isn’t a candidate for president or at least considering it, he’s doing a great impression of someone who is.

In a speech at the Reagan library in California on Tuesday night, the New Jersey governor laid out a broad vision for the country and positioned himself as nothing short of the anti-Obama.

He offered no concrete words about reports that he is rethinking his decision not to run for president, but did nothing to quiet that speculation, either, telling a woman who offered an impassioned plea for him to run that he was “touched.”

“That reason has to reside inside me,” he said. “My answer to you is just this: I take it in and I’m listening to every word of it, and I feel it.”

Asked by a previous questioner whether he would re-consider running, he urged the man to view web videos of his repeated denials. Before the man could follow up, he shut him down by essentially threatening him with a rhetorical joust.

The only other time Christie alluded to the presidential race was when he took a pretty direct shot at Texas Gov. Rick Perry, criticizing Perry’s contention that anyone who opposes in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants is “heartless.”

“That is not a heartless position, that is a common-sense position,” Christie said.

Aside from that, Christie used his platform to criticize the president as weak, ineffective and sacrificing his core principles in the name of political expediency, Christie contrasted all of that with his own record as governor of New Jersey.

“In New Jersey over the last 20 months, you have actually seen divided government that is working,” Christie said. “Being a mayor, being a governor, being a president means leading by taking risk on the most important issues of the day. It has happened in Trenton.”

The speech amounted to a campaign-style speech that sounded suspiciously like that of a candidate trying to make an election a choice between him and his opponent.

In fact, Christie not only compared himself to Obama; he actually said his governance in New Jersey has served as a model for what other states have done. More than selling a set of values, Christie was selling himself.

After talking about his own achievements in balancing a budget with a Democratic legislature and making the tough decisions, Christie then turned to the president, who has to contend with a Republican-controlled House in Washington.

“We watch a president who once talked about the courage of his convictions, but still has yet (to find) the courage to lead,” Christie said, adding: “And still we continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office.”

For a guy who once described Obama as an ally on education reform, the criticisms lodged at the president were striking.

Perhaps better than any presidential candidate has, Christie used the forum Tuesday night to launch a broadside against Obama, shunning the usual attacks on the president’s health care bill and the size of government for a more personal attack.

Hs strongest moment was when he quoted Obama’s speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when the then-Senate candidate talked about the country not being divided between black and white or liberal and conservative, but being one United States of America.

“Seven years later, President Obama prepares to divide our nation to achieve re-election,” Christie said. “This is not a leadership style, this is a re-election strategy.”

In the end, Christie was either setting himself up as a potential candidate in 2012 or making himself into a very important surrogate and somebody we will be talking about as a future presidential candidate in the years to come.

The question is whether he can or will wait to act on his pretty apparent national ambitions.

Bachmann camp calls Iowa must-win: Days after her former campaign manager said so, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is acknowledging that she must win Iowa to stay in the presidential race.

In a four-minute strategy video, Bachmann’s new campaign manager, Keith Nahigian, says “she has to win Iowa and move on from there.”

Nahigian adds that after Iowa, Bachmann plans to focus on South Carolina.

None of this is a surprise, but ex-campaign manager Ed Rollins phrased the same sentiment a bit less kindly on MSNBC last week, saying his old boss did not have the resources to compete past the first state right now.

Utah lawmakers pick preferred map: We’ve got an idea about what the new congressional map in Utah will look like, and it looks like Republicans won’t create Democratic district in the Salt Lake City area.

The map selected by the state legislature’s redistricting committee would put all of the state capital in one district, but would combine it with all of western and southern Utah and put other more Democratic areas into other districts.

It would also give Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) a very different district from the one he has now. While he would get more of Salt Lake City, he would have to woo lots more new voters in western Utah. His current district starts in Salt Lake City and stretches east before roping in southern Utah.

The question going into redistricting was whether the GOP would give Matheson a safe district. He has turned aside every effort to defeat him in a very conservative district, and some suggested giving him a tough shake make lure him into a statewide run, where polling shows him competitive.

“Based on the map I have seen, a race by me for Governor or for the Senate is still on the table,” Matheson said in a statement to Roll Call.

Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee has added a candidate for the state’s new 4th district, state Rep. Carl Wimmer, to its Young Guns program for promising candidates. Wimmer was added along with Beth Anne Rankin, who is running a repeat bid for retiring Rep. Mike Ross’s (D-Ark.) seat.

Fixbits:

Vice President Biden says Christie is a “good guy”.

Bachmann is speaking at Liberty University this morning at 10 a.m. eastern time.

Perry’s lieutenant governor, who is the frontrunner in the Texas GOP Senate primary, disagrees with Perry on in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants.

Don’t look for a shakeup at Perry HQ.

Sarah Palin praises Herman Cain and offers a confusing commentary on her own presidential thought process.

All the latest on the presidential primary calendar, from the New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny. Meanwhile, the AP says a new rule could draw out the nominating contest.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is right around 50 percent and leads his GOP opponents by double digits in a new Quinnipiac poll.

Must-reads:

The Other ‘L’ Word: Can Tammy Baldwin Win in Wisconsin?” — E.J. Graff, The Atlantic

For Christie, Speculation Has Rewards – and Risks” — Michael D. Shear, New York Times

Young Guns deliver, but that’s not necessarily a good thing” — Jonathan Strong, Roll Call

A Political Wife’s Influence on an Issue” – Susan Saulny, New York Times

For David Plouffe, a top Obama adviser, a new strategy and old doubts” – Jason Horowitz, Washington Post

Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.

 
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