Chris Christie said Wednesday that he’s ignoring – for now – the fevered speculation about his presidential ambitions following a decisive re-election victory as a Republican in deep-blue New Jersey. But his words and actions suggested otherwise.
“It’s complimentary. It’s flattering and I have no problem with it,” Christie said at a press conference at a school on Wednesday. “But I want to be really clear about this: I have a job to do. I got re-elected to do a job last night, and that’s the job I’m going to do.”
Christie practically drank in the chatter about his White House chances, and used the event in a minority-heavy, Democratic corner of New Jersey to begin sketching out why he should be president.
In making his case, the governor said he had no plans to back off of the pugnacious style that helped fuel voters’ enthusiasm with him. But it’s a tactic that could wear thin in a presidential election.
“Fundamentally, I am not going to be changing who I am,” he said. “The verdict from last night, at least in New Jersey, is that people like who I am and like how I govern.”
Christie spent much of his press conference reassuring members of the press that he could balance (and ignore) presidential speculation with his day-to-day responsibilities as governor. But the presidency seemed at the forefront of the Republican’s mind less than a day after he cruised to a 22-point victory over Democrat Barbara Buono.
Christie said that winning half of his state’s Hispanic vote (standing into contrast to Republicans’ dwindling numbers with Latinos in national elections) was one of his most gratifying accomplishments on Tuesday. He lashed out at Washington: “They ask for these big jobs then they go down there and hold their breath and don't do their work.”
And Christie practically said that he already felt qualified to become president, even before he’s sworn into his second term as governor. “I think every day that you do a job like this one makes you a better executive,” he said. “You would think that would make me better-prepared to be president.”
If nothing else, Christie seemed extremely confident in his political skills and what they mean going forward. Whether his trademark New Jersey swagger would wear thin outside the Garden State is an open proposition.
Democrats likened Christie to a “late-night talk show host” in a conference call held in response to yesterday’s elections across the country.
“He won, I think, based on the force of his personality,” said Democratic National Committee communications director Mo Eilleithee. “I don't think that's transferrable to the party or other candidates, nor do I think that it's sustainable.”
“Democrats aren’t alone in the stylistic criticism. “The secret sauce is that he’s like everybody’s next door neighbor,” influential South Carolina Republican Katon Dawson told NBC News last week. “Will they like him in South Carolina? The jury’s out on that.”
Christie’s free-wheeling persona was on display during his press conference, as he rolled his eyes at some reporters’ questions, and parried questions about his feelings toward same-sex marriage by explaining that he doesn’t get “weepy” at reading the wedding announcements of gay and lesbian couples in the Sunday New York Times.
The governor made clear, though, that he’s not about to go changing his trademark style should he wage a bid for the presidency.
“I'm not here to put on a show,” he added a bit later. “I'm here to win.”