Image: Chris Christie
Mel Evans  /  AP
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces that he will not run for president in 2012, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J.
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updated 10/5/2011 2:27:51 PM ET 2011-10-05T18:27:51

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie isn't joining the GOP field running for president in 2012, but he may have a hand in shaping the race from the sidelines.

His network of admirers and big-money donors and his continued popularity would make his endorsement a coveted campaign contribution, operatives say.

"Christie's endorsement will be aggressively sought after," said Phil Musser, a senior adviser for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's presidential campaign this year and former executive director of the Republican Governors Association.

"First, he's now got a national following at the grass-roots and establishment level," Musser said. "Second, the financial network in New Jersey, if corralled, can produce millions. And, finally, he'd be a terrific surrogate for any campaign."

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Video: What does Christie’s move mean for GOP? (on this page)

If some candidates were annoyed that Christie sucked up the media spotlight for a week as he reconsidered, Christie said they weren't telling him so.

"I think of bunch of the people who are candidates wouldn't say something like that because they want me to think kindly of them," Christie said Tuesday. "Even if they were annoyed, I think they withheld their fire."

"This was not something I stoked," he said of speculation about a possible presidential campaign. "This was something I kept trying to push off, but eventually it became something more than I could push off."

Ultimately, Christie decided it wasn't his time. But he said he would use his role as vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association to work with governors across the country in the coming years and would work to support whoever becomes the 2012 GOP nominee.

Story: Christie says he's not running for president

The line of compliments from candidates had already begun to form Tuesday.

"We should all learn from the model of fiscal discipline and reform Gov. Christie has put in place in New Jersey," Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman said.

Christie's star rose quickly after he defeated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine in 2009 in liberal-learning New Jersey. He won praise in his party for his budget cutting and employee benefit reforms, and for taking on the powerful teachers unions and shaking up the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

His brash tell-it-like-it-is style also made him a YouTube hit and a campaign trail favorite.

Besides those attributes, candidates also know that where Christie goes, cameras follow. The media scrum that arrived for his announcement Tuesday was so large that the line to get into his office stretched outside the front doors of the Statehouse and some were turned away because there was no room left. On-air personalities from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" were among the throng.

Video: Chris Christie: ‘Now is not my time’ (on this page)

The last time that many media members packed into the New Jersey governor's office was for then-Gov. Jim McGreevey's "I'm a gay American" speech.

A charismatic speaker, Christie has spent the last two election cycles campaigning for Republicans around the country, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who won a close race against incumbent Ted Strickland, and Meg Whitman, who lost the California governor's race. He has also spent time working donors, many of whom were so enamored they publicly encouraged him to run for the White House.

Whitman, the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., is among those with deep pockets and an affection for Christie, whom she hosted at her home last week for a fundraiser.

Don't count Perry out just yet

Billionaire oil tycoons Charles and David Koch invited Christie to give the keynote speech at their annual invitation-only retreat in Colorado in June. A month before, energy company executive Bruce Rastetter traveled to New Jersey to try to persuade him to run because he had been impressed by Christie at a fundraiser for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's campaign. Rastetter was Branstad's top fundraiser in 2010.

The Home Depot co-founder and billionaire Ken Langone also tried to get Christie to run. Hours after Christie said he was out for 2012, Langone announced he was backing Mitt Romney.

___

Associated Press writer Brian Bakst in Minnesota contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: What does Christie’s move mean for GOP?

  1. Transcript of: What does Christie’s move mean for GOP?

    CURRY: All right, Jamie Gangel , thank you so much . Chuck Todd is NBC 's political director and chief White House correspondent. Hey, Chuck , good morning.

    CHUCK TODD reporting: Good morning.

    CURRY: After all the hype about Christie , it's interesting to note that Romney , Perry , Cain and Huntsman sure had a lot of nice things to say about him. You could almost hear the relief. If this field set?

    TODD: It is basically set. Look, is there a possibility Sarah Palin could make a last-minute entry? Yes. Is there a possibility former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani might decide to jump in? Sure. But neither one of them would have the impact that Chris Christie would have had who would have been an instant sort of co-front-runner. So when you look at the top tier of this field, this field is set. It's Romney , it's Perry , and, you know, maybe it's a Herman Cain , maybe it's a Jon Huntsman that's in this top tier . But that's your field.

    CURRY: OK, so if that's the case then, which candidate then is likely to benefit from Christie deciding not to run? Who gets his endorsement and also all the political contributions that are waiting as a wave to crash ashore?

    TODD: Well, we're already seeing Mitt Romney as the short-term beneficiary. The biggest pusher of Chris Christie to get into this race has said he's signing up on team Romney . So you're going to see some of this money around Wall Street , in the New York City area that was holding off pining for Chris Christie , they're more comfortable going to Mitt Romney . But this doesn't mean that Rick Perry is somehow hurt by this. The best thing to happen to Rick Perry over the last 10 days has been the Chris Christie speculation. It froze the race at a time when Perry was in a perilous position. And he got time to sort of get his sea legs a little bit and potentially raise a ton -- be able to get this big money that he's likely going to report in the next 24 hours and show that he can be a formidable front-runner.

    CURRY: Meantime, I want to ask you about something interesting that MSNBC 's Joe Scarborough said about -- in the wake of Christie saying that he's not running. He was saying that Republicans , independents and even Democrats would have been well-served if Christie had jumped in to the race because quote, "This silly campaign about HPV , Ponzi schemes and Tiffany credit lines will become a deadly serious debate -- will become a deadly serious debate about America 's uncertain future. Like Romney , Obama seemed to take pride in his efforts to get -- to be all things to all people . Christie , on the other hand , just doesn't give a damn." Given all the excitement that Christie generated, wouldn't it be smart for the other candidates to perhaps take a look at his playbook?

    TODD: Well, I think they're -- all been trying to replicate it in some form or another. You know, yesterday Mitt Romney at a town hall about an hour after Chris Christie 's announcement tried to get aggressive, tried to be more of a -- of a in-your-face kind of guy. But that's just not his personality. I mean, I think you're going to see Rick Perry trying to emulate that a little bit. You know, when he got hit for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme , he said, 'Hey, you know, I'm going to tell it like it is .' They're all trying to do that. They know that this idea of authenticity is what the American voter is looking for. Now of course, the idea of authenticity is a little bit subjective but that is what they're looking for at this point. So we'll see. I think ultimately what we don't know about this race is we don't know what does Mitt Romney look like as a Republican candidate after millions of dollars are spent attacking him, saying he's not a conservative? What does he look like after that happens? When we know that, then we'll know whether he's -- can get this nomination.

    CURRY: OK. A story, a great story that's still playing out. Chuck Todd , thanks so much.

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