New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Announces Presidential Run, Says He Plans to ‘Change the World'

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie opened his 2016 campaign for president Tuesday and, never one to aim small, declared he's "out to change the world."

The Republican governor told a kickoff rally in the gymnasium of his old high school in Livingston that his last 13 years as a U.S. attorney and governor have been about "fighting for fairness and justice and opportunity" and he wants to do the same for the country.

"America is tired of hand-wringing and indecisiveness and weakness in the Oval Office," he said. "We need to have strength and decision-making and authority back in the Oval Office. And that is why today I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination for president of the United States of America."

Christie's announcement comes days after website and video alluding to a campaign were published. The video and site, which feature footage of the governor and the slogan, "Telling it like it is", are paid for by the group Chris Christie for President.

Christie was once thought to be a leading White House contender, but his star has faded over the last year. He's been hurt by a traffic scandal involving senior aides and a lagging state economy.

Christie had been widely expected to join the increasingly crowded field of Republicans seeking the party's nomination, and was at one time considered a 2016 front-runner. Thirteen candidates, including former New York Gov. George Pataki, have already announced campaigns. 

Christie has been touring his state and New Hampshire, an important state in the nation's primary elections, hosting a series of town halls. He heads to New Hampshire later Monday, where he's planning to campaign through the end of the week.

Before the official announcement Tuesday, Christie announced his plans to his most loyal supporters, donors and friends in a conference call. 

"Going back to where you were when you were 15, or 16, or 17 years old, and to be able to stand in front of that group of people and offer yourself to the presidency is a really, really amazing moment," he said on the call. 

He also asked supporters to have confidence in him and work hard on his behalf.

Christie had been a popular figure both in his home state and nationally thanks to his brash demeanor and actions in the wake of Sandy in 2012, but his approval ratings have dropped in the wake of the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal last fall.

Christie was never implicated in the traffic-jamming political payback scheme, but two of his top aides were arrested in the aftermath of the scandal.

In April, he told Matt Lauer in an interview on NBC's "Today" that he thought a governor would be the Republican party's nominee. 

“If I decide I want to do this, I’m going to do it honestly, and I'm going to go at as hard as I can and try to win every day,” he said. “I will never give being who I am, because that's a thing that stays with you forever."

The governor faces a tough sell with many conservatives, but has seemingly found his stride at times in visits to early voting states with the lively town hall meetings he's known for at home. There will be plenty more of those now that he's an affirmed candidate.

Emboldened by his political successes in heavily Democratic New Jersey, he seems himself as a leader who can work across Washington's bitter partisan divide.

In 2012, Christie was seen as the charismatic, pragmatic governor who burst onto the scene in made-for-YouTube moments. He gained national attention with a landmark deal in which the state's public sector unions agreed to higher health care costs and retirement ages in exchange for promised payments into the state's chronically underfunded pension season.

Christie's fortunes have certainly changed.

Now, Christie has been eclipsed by others in a pack of more than dozen rivals. And his poll numbers at home have sunk to record lows. New Jersey's economy is lagging and there have been nine credit downgrades on Christie's watch.

Christie grew up in Livingston, a town about 20 miles west of New York City, and served as class president at the high school. His high school friends were among the first to receive word that Christie would be launching his campaign at their old school.

"He's respecting his roots," said Stephen Slotnick, a fellow classmate who applauded the governor for including "the people who've grown up with him, the people who've supported him his entire life."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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