New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has reaffirmed to supporters that he isn't running for president, even as a speech he delivered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was likely to stoke fresh speculation about his White House ambitions.
The Republican governor warned that the nation's credibility abroad was being damaged by troubles at home. He charged that an indecisive White House has deepened the nation's economic pain, and he accused President Barack Obama of preparing to divide the country to win re-election next year.
Christie later said in a question-and-answer session that he was flattered by suggestions he run in 2012, but he added, "that reason has to reside inside me."
He urged a capacity audience of about 900 that included former first lady Nancy Reagan to look at the website Politico, which had pieced together a long string of video clips of him saying he's not a candidate for the White House.
"Those are the answers," he told the crowd.
In his speech, Christie didn't spare Congress as he delivered a scathing indictment of Beltway politics. He said the failure to compromise, along with Obama's lack of leadership, had set the country dangerously off course.
In Washington "we drift from conflict to conflict, with little or no resolution. We watch a president who once talked about the courage of his convictions, but still has yet found the courage to lead," Christie said.
"We watch a Congress at war with itself because they are unwilling to leave campaign-style politics at the Capitol's door. The result is a debt-ceiling limitation debate that made our democracy appear as if we could no longer effectively govern ourselves," he said.
Christie's appearance came during a three-day national trip in which the governor is raising money for Republicans and networking with party rainmakers.
With a reputation as a blunt-talking budget-cutter, the Reagan stage gave Christie the opportunity to extend his influence in a party that views him as a rising star.
Christie, the first Republican elected New Jersey governor since 1997, repeatedly contrasted Reagan's leadership skills with the dysfunction in Washington. Obama has positioned himself as a compromiser and deal-maker, but Christie cited his work in Trenton as the successful model, saying "leadership and compromise is the only way you reform New Jersey's pension and health benefits system."
He mocked Obama as "a bystander in the Oval Office" who was preparing to divide the nation along economic lines to win another four years in Washington, apparently alluding to the president's jobs bill, which proposes that wealthy Americans and big corporations pay more in taxes.
Obama is "telling those who are scared and struggling that the only way their lives can get better is to diminish the success of others," Christie said. He's "insisting that we must tax and take and demonize those who have already achieved the American Dream."
After the speech, Christie was asked repeatedly during the question-and-answer session if he would reconsider a presidential run. He declined, as he has many times before.
Lantie Jorandby, a 38-year-old physician from Florida who watched the speech, said she was unhappy with the GOP field and was eager to see Christie in the race. The registered Republican lamented the GOP presidential debates, calling them "a playground."
Mitt "Romney seems like a used car salesman. (Rick) Perry is out of his depth," she said. Christie "kind of has that Reagan-esque vibe."
Also Tuesday, his brother became the latest confidante to tamp down talk of a presidential bid.
"I'm sure that he's not going to run," Todd Christie told The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. The newspaper also reported that the governor told wealthy donors in Santa Ana that he was not entering the race, echoing his previous statements.