Christie Allies Freed To Support Other Candidates

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced this week they would not be seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Among the most enthusiastic advocates of a Christie presidential bid were a handful of Northeastern investors. Some of them have already jumped to join Mitt Romney.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

Someone who has been occupying more than a little bit of air time and attention in the Republican presidential race, has officially announced she is not running. In a letter to supporters, Sarah Palin says, instead of seeking the nomination, she'll use her influence to help elect Republicans across the country. This helps solidify the Republican presidential primary field, now that New Jersey governor Chris Christie has confirmed he won't enter the race either.

One immediate result, his core group of financial industry fundraisers, a group that had been urging Christie to run, is free to pick up other candidates. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Christie himself said he wasn't choosing sides in the primary.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: If I feel like there's someone in the field who is - gives us the best chance to defeat the president, I'll endorse that person, and I'll work hard for that person. But I'm not in a position, today, to make that judgment.

OVERBY: Some of Christie's would-be financial backers, however, are more than ready with the early deciders moving to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Here's what New York billionaire John Catsimatidis thinks of Romney.

JOHN CATSIMATIDIS: He's a middle of the road, common-sense person, he's a businessman. He can handle international as well as national finances, which is very important right now.

OVERBY: And the other GOP hopefuls...

CATSIMATIDIS: I mean the other Republican candidates are all politicians. They don't know enough - right now, how does the expression go? It's the economy, stupid.

OVERBY: In past campaigns, Catsimatidis bundled contributions for the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton. Then he moved right. He said, yesterday, he's been talking with the Romney campaign since last year. And with Christie taking himself out of the lineup, Catsimatidis likes the idea of New Jersey's governor in the GOP bullpen warming up for 2016.

Another convert to Romney, long-time Republican fundraiser, Georgette Mosbacher. She told the website, Capital New York, that she was ready to join the Romney campaign. So was billionaire investor, Ken Langone, a co-founder of The Home Depot. Tuesday night, he talked with interviewer Charlie Rose on PBS.

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KEN LANGONE: First of all, I want you to know that Governor Romney just called me a little while ago.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes.

LANGONE: ...and I've sworn my allegiance to him.

OVERBY: Langone is more partisan than Catsimatidis. Since the 1990s, the vast majority of his money has gone to Republicans. Four years ago, he was a Presidential campaign bundler for former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. But Langone told Rose that he not only misses Bill Clinton...

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION SHOW)

LANGONE: I'd vote for Hillary too. Look, it's not about partisan politics. It's - please, I hope everybody, tonight, hears - maybe you won't agree with me, but I want you to know, in my heart of hearts, never has America been confronted with greater challenges than it is right this minute.

OVERBY: Romney also won an enthusiastic endorsement from Paul Singer. He's one of the most influential conservative activists in the hedge fund sector. Some other hedge fund billionaires in Christie's camp didn't respond to NPR queries.

For Romney, the prospect of more Wall Street money is good news at a good time. Yesterday his chief rival, Texas governor Rick Perry, announced that he had raised more than $17 million in the third quarter. That seems to be better than Romney did, his campaign hasn't put out any numbers yet. And it gives Perry new energy, just as Romney had seemed to be gaining momentum.

Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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