Chris Christie Decides Not To Run For President

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday that he will not seek the Republican presidential nomination.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie put an end to weeks of intense speculation today. He says he will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

CHRIS CHRISTIE: So New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me.

BLOCK: GOP donors and strategists who are unhappy with the current crop of candidates urged Christie to get into the race and Christie listened, but in the end he did not change his mind.

NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE: Today, Chris Christie admitted what his friends and colleagues had been whispering for weeks, that he did reconsider his earlier decision not to run for president. The first term governor says the persistent encouragement from party powerbrokers did make him think twice, but...

CHRISTIE: In the end, the deciding factor was that it did not feel right to me in my gut to leave now when the job here is not finished. And I could never get by that, Charlie, and I have lots of people talking to me, trying to get me by it. I could never get by it.

ROSE: Christie spent the rest of his nearly hour-long news conference in Trenton batting down other theories about why he's not running. There are questions about whether Christie's politics, particularly on social issues, are conservative enough to win the Republican nomination.

If his speech last month at the Ronald Reagan Library in California was an effort to reach out to the party's right flank, it didn't seem to work. Prominent conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, expressed misgivings after the speech.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: I heard a lot of John McCain in that speech. Well, maybe not a lot, but I heard enough to send up a red flag or two. But again, I'm going to tell you, the Republican establishment - now, you're going to get mad at me at this - but the Republican establishment is looking for anybody who can see to it that a conservative - a genuine conservative will not be nominated.

ROSE: Today, Chris Christie rejected the idea that he couldn't win the nomination because he's not conservative enough.

CHRISTIE: I said all along, I am a principled conservative, but I also said in the Reagan speech, as Ronald Reagan did, you have to compromise at times to get things done and that doesn't mean compromising your principles, but it means not getting everything you want. Now, if someone calls that liberal, being compromising, then they're dead wrong.

ROSE: Christie also scoffed at the idea that his weight would be a problem during a presidential campaign. For several weeks, comedians, including "Late Show" host David Letterman, have been getting lots of laughs out of Christie's ample waistline.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "LATE SHOW")

DAVID LETTERMAN: Ways the country would be different now if Chris Christie was the president. These are differences in the country. Here you go. You ready? Number 10, al-Qaida taunts American with, yo-president's-so-fat jokes. Number nine, goodbye White House vegetable garden. Number eight, the Cabinet will now have a Secretary of Cake. Number seven...

ROSE: But Christie says the jokes don't bother him as long as they're funny.

CHRISTIE: I'm not particularly self-conscious about this. Like, it's not a news flash to me that I'm overweight, you know, and so I saw Letterman's top ten list and I thought, you know, probably eight out of the ten were really funny.

ROSE: Christie admits he's found all the attention flattering and he says it's an endorsement of his record, so far, in New Jersey.

CHRISTIE: I'd like to think it says something about me and, you know, there are folks who feel like what we've done here in New Jersey in a blue state in bringing people together and getting things done is something that they'd like to see in the country.

ROSE: But all the effort aimed at drafting Chris Christie may say just as much about the lack of enthusiasm for the other candidates in the race. And Republicans who were hoping Christie would change his mind will have to find another late arrival to be the life of the party.

Joel Rose, NPR News, Trenton, New Jersey.

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