In Iowa and New Hampshire, home to the first-in-the-nation caucuses and primary, Republican strategists say there is no sign that Christie or his political advisers are laying the groundwork for a run. For instance, Christie has not reached out to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), a call that prospective candidates normally would make, according to a Branstad aide.
“I haven’t seen the due diligence done,” said Rich Killion, who was Tim Pawlenty’s New Hampshire strategist but has been unaligned since Pawlenty dropped out.
Michael Dennehy, another uncommitted New Hampshire-based strategist said: “It’s quiet and a little weird. If he’s really seriously considering it, when does he start putting calls into New Hampshire?”
But there are other signals that Christie is giving serious consideration to a run. One Iowa businessman, who sought unsuccessfully to draft Christie into the race earlier this year, said he was preparing this week to endorse another candidate, but Christie’s political advisers asked him not to.
“Something’s up now,” said the Iowan, who requested anonymity to discuss private matters. “I was ready to jump, but was told to hold off until next Wednesday.”
While Christie repeatedly had asserted that he had no interest in running for president, sources familiar with his thinking said Friday that he was moved to reconsider by the extraordinary number of pleas this week from prominent GOP donors, leaders and activists for him to make a late entry.
Christie and his team may be analyzing where he might fit into the current field and how big an opening there really is. Republican strategists said Christie would pose as big a threat to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other tea party-aligned conservatives as he would to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has won over many in the party establishment.
“Christie’s a different type of Republican,” said Scott Reed, who managed Robert Dole’s 1996 campaign and is uncommitted in the current race. “He has the ability to transcend the traditional ideological battles for a nomination because of the unique way that he came on the scene — as a tough-talking guy in some really tough times.”
Still, like Perry and Romney, Christie would have to explain some positions he has taken that are out of step with conservative orthodoxy. Three years ago, he said the term “illegal immigrant” should not be used, arguing that “being in this country without documentation is not a crime.”
The current candidates — and most Republican voters — are sharply opposed to people being in the country when they are not authorized to be here and often use the phrase “illegal aliens” to describe them.