WASHINGTON — Chris Christie said Tuesday that he wouldn't seek the Republican presidential nomination, resisting the overtures of Republicans who had urged the New Jersey governor to reconsider his opposition to running.
Speaking at a press conference at New Jersey's state capitol, Christie explained that he felt an obligation to stick with his promise to continue to serve as governor.
"For months, I've been adamant about the fact that I would not run for president," he said. "For me, the answer was never anything but 'no.'"
Christie admitted rethinking his pledge not to run over the weekend, but characteristically joked that New Jersey voters are "stuck" with him for now.
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"In the end what I always felt was the right decision remains the right decision today: Now is not my time," he said, explaining several times that it "never felt right" to abandon the state at this juncture in his career.
The announcement had followed a two week period in which Christie considered reneging on his earlier, emphatic declarations against running for president.
The governor stoked the speculation with a high-profile speech last week at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., and a tour to help raising money for Republicans in Missouri, California and Louisiana.Video: Gov. Christie: ‘Now is not my time’ (on this page)
Encouragement from Henry Kissinger, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush led him to reconsider a bid, and he spent the weekend thinking over his options.
That groundswell of support from major GOP donors, party leaders and everyday Americans had prompted Christie to rethink his intentions, sources close to the governor told NBC's Jamie Gangel. Christie came close to getting in, and he said that his wife, Mary Pat, had told him recently that she would support him running if he decided to do so.
Notably, when asked, Christie wouldn't rule out any future campaigns for the presidency or any other political office: "I have interest in being employed in the future and I’m not going to preclude any type of employment." Christie is eligible reelection as governor of New Jersey in 2013, and he said Tuesday he hadn't yet decided whether to seek a second term.
Tuesday's announcement means that the field of Republican presidential candidates is largely set; Christie joins a long list of Republicans who had thought about running for president, but ultimately decided against making a bid.
Christie declined Tuesday to make an endorsement of any candidate currently in the race, and sought to dispel the notion that interest in his candidacy was a sign of poor enthusiasm in the current field.
"I don't think it says anything in particular about the field," he said. "I'd like to think it says something about me."
Christie said he hadn't ruled any candidate in or out, but said that he was "troubled" by the reported posting of a racial epithet at a camping ground leased by 2012 candidate Rick Perry and his family.
Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee, is the last major figure to announce her intentions, and ballot qualification deadlines virtually ensure her decision sometime this month.
Christie's reconsideration has been driven by lingering uncertainty among Republican voters about the party's current stable of presidential candidates, especially front runners Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Perry, the conservative governor of Texas.
Romney has performed well in polls of GOP voters' preference in a nominee, but has struggled to build on his early advantage in the primary campaign. Many conservatives had looked to Perry as an alternative to Romney, but the Texas governor's stumbles in recent debates, combined with questions about his record on immigration and Social Security, have raised doubts about Perry's candidacy.Slideshow: Chris Christie — a N.J. politician with national recognition (on this page)
Despite his insistence for the better part of 2011 that he wouldn't run — Christie joked in February that he didn't know what he could do to convince people he's not running, "short of suicide" — speculation about a potential late entry by the Garden State governor reached a fever pitch last week during his speech at the Reagan library. During that event, he didn't explicitly rule out running despite the audience literally imploring him to run.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday found those two still atop the pack of candidates, though Romney reclaimed an advantage over his Texas rival following a boomlet for Perry shortly following his August entry into the campaign. Romney was the top choice of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, at 25 percent, in the poll. Perry and former pizza executive Herman Cain tied for second place, at 16 percent.
Christie would have entered the race with some support, and the same poll found him competitive against President Barack Obama among registered voters. Christie criticized the president at his press conference, saying Obama had "failed" as a leader.
But as he started to reconsider his earlier vow against running, Republicans behind the scene previewed possible lines of attack against Christie. GOP voices complained that Christie wasn't conservative enough on issues like immigration or gun rights, and they even took note of the governor's hefty stature.Story: Christie's conservative record under close scrutiny
He joked that those early criticisms of his record were a sign, to him, that he could actually win. Christie also said late night comedians' jokes about his weight were "fair game."
But with the list of would-be GOP saviors dwindling, and October deadlines on the horizon, the Republican establishment will likely look to coalesce around a candidate, likely Romney or Perry, or possibly another dark-horse candidate lurking in the existing field.
NBC's Jamie Gangel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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