New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie fueled speculation about his presidential aspirations during a gubernatorial debate Tuesday night.
Though he refused to confirm or deny reports that he will run for the top job, the Republican Party’s rising star offered a broad hint when he said that he can do his job “and deal with [my] future.”
“I can walk and chew gum at the same time,” he quipped.
Christie, who is heavily favored to win reelection in November, faced off against Democrat Barbara Buono in a one-hour debate at William Patterson University. The two candidates disagreed on nearly every issue. The governor painted Buono as a reckless tax-and-spend Democrat, while Buono accused him of protecting millionaires at the expense of the poor and working class.
Debate topics ranged from economic recovery in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy to legalization of marijuana and recognition of gay marriage in the state of New Jersey. But looming over the debate was the question of whether Christie was planning a run for the White House in 2016.
Buono referred to the possibility that if elected, the governor might leave office early to run for president. She also accused him of pandering to right-wing conservatives by opposing government funding for Planned Parenthood and gun-control laws.
Christie pointed out that rumors of his presidential ambitions had first surfaced four years ago – and that had not stopped him from being an effective leader for the Garden State.
“The fact is there have been people talking about me running for president since 2010,” he pointed out. “They all said I would do it in 2012 and I said I wouldn’t and I didn’t.”
But Christie couldn’t resist dropping a hint to his broad coalition of supporters.
“The fact is after 2017, I’m going to be looking for another job anyway,” he added.
The governor, a straight-talking, Springsteen-loving New Jersey native of Irish, Scots and Sicilian ancestry, famously toured devastated Jersey Shore towns with President Obama in the aftermath of last year’s superstorm. While his broad base of support includes Democrats, unions, women and minorities, he has been at odds with the NJEA, the state’s education association.
The Daily Mail reports that Christie doesn’t apologize for calling things the way he sees them – even if it rubs some voters the wrong way.
“Using direct and blunt language is something I've done my whole life. It's the way my mother raised me,” he said. “I am who I am. And I'm not going to change.”