Christie gave an impassioned call for strong leadership, accusing Washington of drifting from crisis to crisis without resolution and President Obama of being a “bystander in the Oval Office.” In his nearly 30-minute speech, Christie offered no indication he might offer himself as that strong leader, but didn’t close the door, either.
During an audience question-and-answer session, a woman stood up and pleaded. “I really implore you — I really do. This isn’t funny. I mean this with all my heart,” she said. “Please, sir, reconsider. Go home and really think about it. Please. Do it for my daughter, do it for our grandchildren, do it for our sons. Please, sir, your country needs you to run for president.”
The audience rose to applause and Christie, in an emotional moment, responded: “I feel the passion with which you say it, and it touches me.”
The governor said he was listening to those urging him to run, adding that he was taking it in and “feeling it too.” But he continued, “by the same token, that heartfelt message you gave me is also not a reason for me to do it. That reason has to reside inside me. That’s what I’ve said all along. I know without ever having met President Reagan that he must’ve felt deeply in his heart that he was called to that moment to lead our country. And so my answer to you is just this, I thank you for what you’re saying.”
With that, Christie ensured the speculation would go on.
Even with no apparent campaign in the offing, Christie summoned the nation’s political leadership to take action and lead through compromise. “When there is a problem, you fix it,” he said. “That’s what you do. That’s what we did. That’s the job we’ve been sent to do. And you cannot wait for someone else to do it when you’re sitting in the Oval Office.”
Christie arrived at Simi Valley, Calif., surrounded by a buzz of which most politicians could only dream. For a month, and especially this past week, a growing chorus of Republican contributors, commentators and activists have ramped up calls on him to run for president. Over and over, they told Christie that this is his moment and his country needs him.
But the pressure may say less about Christie’s potential as a candidate than it does about the unease many Republicans have with the current presidential field.
“The Republican Party is a party that believes in the power of markets and the free enterprise system, and what you’re seeing here is a market where there is demand for an additional candidate in the race,” said Steve Schmidt, who was John McCain’s top strategist in 2008 and is unaligned this time. “There is a whole class of Republican donors and activists who aren’t done dating yet. They’re not ready to put a ring on anyone’s finger.”