As a child, Gov. Chris Christie dreamed of going to the Pennsylvania town that hosts the Little League World Series. Monday, he made it there. “As a 12-year-old, I always wanted to come to Williamsport. It’s taken me 36 years to get here, but I have arrived,” Christie said.Although it wasn’t quite the same as playing for a championship Little League team, Christie was something of an all-star when he walked into a small Republican campaign office in this small, working-class city to the cheers of about 75 people. He was there to campaign for Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett, the state’s elected attorney general and, like Christie, a former U.S. attorney.
With just three weeks to go before Election Day, Corbett has been leading in the polls against Democrat Dan Otorano. But Christie was the main attraction at this event, where locals familiar with the tough-talking, Jersey guy governor from cable news shows and viral internet videos rushed to shake his hand. Many thought should run for president in 2012, no matter how many times he says he’s not interested.
Cynthia Furey, 61, stopped Christie on his way out to take a picture with him. She called Christie “our savior” and told him he should run for president.
“He’s authentic. He just tells it like it is. He’s a real person – down to earth,” Furey, a retired pre-school teacher who lives in nearby Cogan Station, Pa., said. Furey shrugged at Christie’s unequivocal statements that he’s not running for higher office. “They always say that,” she said.
The rally was the latest stop for Christie, who has spent much of the last month on the stump to drum up publicity and raise money for Republican candidates across the country.
Talk of Christie as a presidential contender has only grown with his travels. On Friday, conservative firebrand Ann Coulter joined the chorus, saying Christie has to run for president “for his country.” On Saturday, Christie topped a presidential straw poll at a Virginia tea party group’s convention, garnering 15 percent of 1,560 votes cast to edge out Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
In his speech, Christie avoided the topic, focusing instead on his battles with Democrats who control the New Jersey Legislature and comparing Corbett’s campaign against Onorato to his campaign last year against former Gov. Jon Corzine, whom he repeatedly described as “desperate.”
Christie talked about closing a $2.2 billion budget deficit last year and an $11 billion deficit this year, painting Democrats as “rubbing their hands in glee” at the prospect of him having to raise taxes to fill the gap and then shocked into submission when he cut the budget instead. He recounted vetoing the millionaires’ tax within 30-seconds of receiving it from the legislative leadership, then watching Democrats pass his proposed budget largely unchanged.
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie is adamant that he does not want to run for President
“When you get the opportunity to lead, folks like Tom and I know how to grab the reins and lead,” he said.
Corbett compared his record as a prosecutor to Christie’s, saying that, like Corzine, Onorato has painted him as lacking executive experience. “The parallels are amazing,” he said. “We understand the issues that face state government. They require tough decisions.”
Christie left the event without taking questions, then headed to a closed-door, $250 per-head fundraiser for Corbett in a nearby hotel, which he left through a back exit.