Christie: Now is not my time to run

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) definitively ruled out a presidential run Tuesday, saying now was not the time for him to run for president.

“New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with me,” Christie said Tuesday at a news conference in the New Jersey State House.

With the press conference, Christie ended weeks of swelling speculation that had upstaged the Republican primary and crystallized the ongoing discontent some Republicans feel with the party's current field of candidates vying to take on President Obama in 2012.

Christie had said continually and firmly for months that he would not run, but Republican donors and operatives lobbied him hard to change his mind, arguing he was the only person capable of overtaking Obama, rectifying the sputtering economy and restoring sense to the U.S. fiscal system.

During the past two weeks, as reports exploded in the national media that Christie was reconsidering, the usually forthright governor started ducking the question, evading reporters and referring to previous statements without granting the sound bites needed to dampen the speculation.

“Over the last few weeks, I’ve thought long and hard about this decision,” Christie said. “In the end, what I’ve always felt was the right decision remains the right decision today. Now is not my time.”

Christie’s bow out of the presidential limelight leaves Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the presumed front-runners in the GOP race. While Christie would have likely stripped support from a number of candidates, Romney had the most to lose if the socially centrist, Northeastern governor had entered the race.

Christie would have faced high hurdles launching a presidential campaign this late in the season, and his decision likely marks the end of GOP hopes for a “white knight” to enter the race.

Meanwhile, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has left the door open for a last-minute run. Republicans have publicly daydreamed about others, including Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFlorida Republicans close ranks with Trump after Capitol siege Confirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE.

Christie insisted the uphill battle to erect a national campaign structure almost overnight was not a factor in his decision.

“In the end, the deciding factor was that, in my gut, it didn’t feel right to me,” he said.

The clamoring for Christie to run for president started soon after he moved into the governor’s office in January 2010 and fashioned a national reputation for himself as a no-nonsense, brusque leader with a penchant for slashing the size of government and a willingness to strong-arm New Jersey’s Democratic leaders in the Legislature to get it done.

Videos of Christie shutting down a teacher during a town-hall meeting and telling a woman who asked about his children’s education it was none of her business became viral hits on YouTube and across the Internet. Christie attained hero-like status among Republicans, Independents and even some Democrats who claimed the country was in dire need of Christie’s particular brand of honesty, tough love and refusal to let political correctness cloud the problems facing the country.

As the race for the GOP presidential nomination starting taking shape in 2011, the pleas for Christie to run ramped up even as the governor insisted he wasn’t ready to run and didn’t want to burden his family.

On Tuesday, Christie said his wife and children were behind him running if he chose, but that his obligation to New Jersey superseded any higher aspirations.

“I’ve made this commitment to my state, first and foremost. The people sent me to Trenton to get a job done, and I’m just not prepared to walk away.”

Christie’s endorsement will now be a hot contest for those in the GOP field. Most of the major candidates have already paid visits to Christie to court him, but the governor on Tuesday declined to offer his pick to take on the president, whom he said had failed the test of leadership.

“What I care about is that the country is better and I think the country will be better if we make sure Obama is a one-termer,” he said.

Had he stepped into the race, Christie might have been competitive against the rest of the GOP field and Obama. A Quinnipiac University poll released the same day as his announcement showed Christie and Romney tied with 17 percent in a primary, with Herman Cain and Perry trailing behind.

In a Christie-Obama match-up, the hard-hitting governor lead with 45 percent to Obama’s 42 percent, within the poll's margin of error.

Christie said when declared candidates started making public comments impugning his electability even though he wasn’t in the race, he knew he would be viable had he chosen to run.

The governor also ruled out a vice-presidential bid for 2012 — but didn’t rule out running for president in 2016.

With Christie out of the race once and for all, attention turned to which candidate would secure the support of those donors and activists who had held out in hopes that Christie would still run. Among the most sought after will be those associated with former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Rudi Giuliani, another centrist Republican from a Northeast state who shares a number of supporters and previous staffers with Christie.

—This story was updated at 2:12 p.m.