Mel Evans / AP file
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses the media during an announcement at Newark Liberty International Airport, in Newark, N.J., on Nov. 14.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is getting a powerful political ticket to travel across the country and meet key donors as he takes over as chairman of the Republican Governors Association Thursday.
"Everybody's excited, you know that I'm gonna take over the chairmanship and I'm getting good responses from donors and from my fellow governors,” Christie told NBC News Wednesday as he prepared to take the helm of the organization in advance of a crucial election year for GOP governors.
“I'm looking forward to it and its going to be a great year," he added. "Thirty-six races, it’s gonna be fun."
Twenty-six of the nation’s 30 GOP governors are meeting here in Scottsdale with party supporters and donors. The primary job of the RGA is to elect and defend Republican incumbents and candidates to the top jobs in state houses around the nation. And 36 of the 50 governor’s seats are at stake next year, raising the stakes for the GOP.
And, as a platform for national influence, the RGA also gives Christie a role in shaping his party beyond New Jersey and next year’s elections. Gov. Christie, who held a series of private meetings Wednesday played down the buzz surrounding his own future ambitions telling NBC News with a dose of humor that, “everyone here is laser focused … on 2014, so no one even mentions anything else!”
Other prominent governors are also attempting to keep the 2016 speculation in check. Outgoing RGA Chairman, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said, "I think as a party, we need to focus on the next election, not the next-next election. Let's focus on 2014." Jindal who will remain on as vice chair of the RGA will work closely with Christie, “I think Chris is going to do a great job as Chairman.”
Christie told NBC News the goal for his new role at the RGA is clear and limited despite the national attention surrounding him, “You don't have any other agenda. The agenda is defend our incumbents and try to see if you can pick up a few seats. Although with 30 governors, there's not a lot of targets left, but we got a few."
Christie’s style which has been popular in New Jersey is untested elsewhere in the country where regional differences influence the party’s identity.
Christie senior advisor Mike DuHaime said that Christie’s job at the RGA is not a dry run for a future national campaign, “There’s no road testing. He is who he is. He’s very authentic. The reason he’s been successful in New Jersey is people understand even if they don’t agree with him on every single issue, they know he says what he believes.”
First published November 20 2013, 8:22 PM