Fifty of the most prized donors in national politics schlepped to a Manhattan office and hovered around speakerphones as venture capitalist Ken Langone, a co-founder of The Home Depot, implored New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to seek the GOP presidential nomination.
Attendees said the governor was firm that it’s not in the cards this time, but left his spurned suitors with the impression he might well go in 2016. He impressed the audience with his emphasis on family and commitment, and flashes of disarming humor, according to attendees.
Here is a paraphrase of what Christie said at the Tuesday meeting, according to attendees – the gist of what he said, not his precise words:
I’m not running, but I came because Langone is so aggressive, he basically just physically shook me into doing it. I’ve weighed this carefully; I didn’t dismiss it out of hand. There were four considerations:
1) One question was: Where’s my wife? She’s not enthused.
2) The second is: I looked ahead at the potential for two years of running, and not seeing my kids. If I won, six years of not seeing them. If I won a second term, 10 years of not seeing them. Missing my kids growing up is a big deal to me, and it was a big reason. The wife was the biggest. The children were the second.
3) I’m staying in New Jersey. I am not just going to quit halfway through my term. The people trusted me, and I feel like I owe that trust and faith some fidelity.
4) And fourth: Could I win? Could I really do it? I think I would win – not saying I would win, but I could win.
I brought my oldest son today because, first of all, I wanted him to wake up early. And, second of all, to have to put on his one suit and tie. But I wanted him to listen because if I did run, which I’m not going to – but if I did in the future – it’s going to affect him. There’s six people in the family – I’m just one.
I recognize that not all of you would immediately commit, but it certainly makes me realize that if I were to run, and had this group were behind me, I certainly wouldn’t have any problem raising money.
Langone backed Rudy Giuliani in 2008, and his guests came from both parties, although most were moderate Republicans. Most are uncommitted in the presidential race. Participants who rank on the Forbes list of richest Americans included Bernie Marcus, Paul Tudor Jones (hedge funds; $3.3 billion), Stan Druckenmiller (hedge funds; $2.5 billion) and Bernie Marcus (Home Depot; $1.9 billion).
Several of Langone’s guests said during the session that they are Republicans, but voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because they disagreed with having Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket.
Several said they were severely disappointed in the president. The biggest complaint was what some called “class warfare.”
Christie travels to Iowa next week to appear on behalf of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).