Amid intense speculation about his political future, Chris Christie privately told a group of Republican donors at a fundraiser in California that he is not running for president in 2012.
Per the Bergen Record's Juliet Fletcher, attendees at the event said the New Jersey governor ruled out a 2012 run after his brother, Todd, jokingly introduced him at the fundraiser as "the guy who's supposed to be running for president."
"No, no, I'm not," Christie replied, one attendee told Fletcher.
Yet Christie was not so definitive at a high-profile speech hours later at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. In those remarks, Christie dodged any firm answer on the 2012 race.
Asked if he's running, Christie didn't explicitly say no, but told the audience his answer lies in a video posted by Politico Tuesday that included a montage of all the ways he's ruled out a bid for the Republican nomination.
"Those are the answers," Christie declared, in what was an unusually cagey moment for the famously blunt governor.
But after an audience member stood and begged him to "reconsider" his decision, insisting the future of the country is at stake, Christie admitted he still doesn't feel called to run, but seemed to leave the door open to changing his mind.
"I hear exactly what you are saying, and I feel the passion with which you say it, and it touches me," Christie said. "But by the same token, that heartfelt message you gave me is also not a reason for me to do it. The reason also has to reside within me."
Still, he acknowledged that he is listening to those who are urging him to run. "I am listening to every word of it and feeling it, too," he said. "I thank you for what you are saying, and I take it in."
Christie's answer was a striking departure from his previous statements about the 2012 race, including his blunt declaration earlier this year that only his "suicide" would end speculation about his presidential aspirations.
The governor's comments aren't likely to end the chatter about his potential presidential prospects. Indeed, Christie's speech at the event, in which he condemned political gridlock in Washington and slammed President Obama's leadership skills, is sure to only inflame speculation about his political future.
"We watch a Congress at war with itself because they are unwilling to leave campaign style politics at the Capitol's door," Christie said. "And still we continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office. We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things that are obvious to all Americans and to a watching and anxious world community."
The domestic political turmoil, Christie declared, means the United States has failed to "live up to our own tradition of exceptionalism."
"Our role and ability to effect change have been diminished because of our own problems and our inability to effectively deal with them," he declared.
Christie contrasted his own record in New Jersey with Obama's--noting that, in spite of "serious disagreements," he and Democratic lawmakers in the state have found ways to work together on a bipartisan basis. According to Christie, Obama has become one of the "dividers" he once railed about.
"Being a mayor, being a governor, being a president means leading by taking risk on the most important issues of the day. It has happened in Trenton," Christie said. Obama, he said,"once talked about the courage of his convictions, but still has yet to find the courage to lead."