Christie raises profile without even running

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announces his decision to forgo candidacy in the Republican primary race for president at a a news conference at the Statehouse October 4, 2011 in Trenton, New Jersey. Christie said that 'now is not my time' and that he felt committed to his position in New Jersey and would not abandon it
Chris Christie
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announces his decision to forgo candidacy in the Republican primary race for president at a a news conference at the Statehouse, October 4, 2011 in Trenton, New Jersey.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday that after giving it some thought, he would, in fact, stay in Trenton this presidential campaign season.

"Now is not my time,"said the former U.S. Attorney who made a splash in 2009 when he defeated incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, "it just didn't feel right to me to leave before the job was done."

Highlights from Christie's press conference

The announcement was expected to stop political reporters from asking Christie if he would run for president for at least 24 hours. Enough time for the governor to raise some cash for New Jersey Republicans in peace.

Okay, that may be a bit flip, but Christie made his intentions known loudly and clearly for months. The chattering class chose not to listen.

Christie even joked that he would have to kill himself to prove the sincerity of his denial to run for president in 2012. And still, that was not enough.

The calls for him to reconsider were so intense he could not ignore them, Christie told reporters in his nearly hour-long press conference explaining his decision making process.

So Christie did what any skilled politician would do. Take the ball and run with it.

The New Jersey governor ran to California to collect cash from donors looking to strengthen the party's financial position, all the while raising his own profile. One event last Wednesday, at former eBay chief Meg Whitman's home, brought in a couple hundred thousand dollars. He also had events in Louisiana and Missouri to raise money for New Jersey Republicans.

He reportedly told the Silicon Valley donors he had already decided against running. But donors would rather give to somebody who is seen as a hot commodity. When he made his speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California a week ago, the calls for Chris Christie to jump in the race reached a fever pitch.

(At left, watch all the different ways Christie said he wouldn't run during his news conference today)

And Christie is nothing if not media-savvy, even if he is not well known to most Americans, including Republican primary voters, according to a CBS News poll. The speculation surely raised his profile among a key constituency: Republican donors who could help him both now and in the future.

What is also clear is that Christie enjoyed the spotlight--and he does want to run for president someday. Just not now.

Some have suggested that Christie could be offered a slot as a vice presidential nominee. But the would-be presidential candidate said he had no interest in taking a role as number two and scoffed at the notion that he would even be asked.

"Can you imagine? The guy would need a food taster," Christie quipped.

His decision to build his reputation could pay off down the road. Christie was courted to run for governor in 2005 against Jon Corzine, with many donors and strategists telling him that it would be harder in 2009 against an incumbent Corzine. Christie ignored the pleas and won four years later.

"In my heart, I could not get around the fact that I would be leaving this job after 20 months," he said of his decision to hold off this time.

Christie wants more experience as a governor before running for president. And that could make him a formidable candidate in 2016 or 2020. He is, afterall, just 49 years old.

  • Corbett Daly On Twitter» Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.