New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has consistently denied he plans to run for president. But an invitation from former First Lady Nancy Reagan to give a high profile speech on leadership at the Ronald Reagan Presidential library in California and a week of political fundraisers across the country has rekindled the speculation.
Larry Sabato, a professor at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics Professor says the 2012 presidential primary schedule is still in flux, so a late entry by a Christie is technically still possible.
"No its not too late for him to get in, but he would really have to hustle," Sabato said.
Christie's national image has been burnished with the GOP base and Tea Party through his combative style. At town hall meetings, he extemporaneously debates all comers, and he has the ability to offer specifics and freely talk about issues in a way that does not require cue cards. His digital team immediately uploads those appearances into YouTube orbit in real time, leapfrogging the media filter.
But Sabato says there are downsides to his frequent media appearances: Video of interviews the Jersey Governor that could undercut Christie should he decide to run.
"I think the one that is killer is the one that when he says, 'I am not ready to be president,'" Sabato says. "Now that is a made-to-order TV ad for each of his Republican opponents."
Christie's schedule includes a half dozen fund raisers in Missouri, California and Louisiana to benefit New Jersey's Republican Party, which hopes to in this November's state legislative races. Sabato says for Christie there is no downside to the extended hype over his potential.
"The greater the national role he plays, the more Chris Christie can attract money and attention for his own purposes in New Jersey and elsewhere."
While Christie was out of the state on party business, he got some good news on the home front. According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, Gov. Chris Christie’s approval numbers have rebounded to a "robust margin" among New Jersey’s registered voters, with 54 percent approving and 36 perent disapproving.
“The spring budget battles hurt the governor,” said Peter Woolley, director of the poll. “But he got a big win on pension and benefits reform in June, and he weathered Hurricane Irene in August.”
Part of Christie's success may be attributed to his ability to form alliances with democratic mayors in New Jersey's urban areas, and the fact that he took on republican conservatives after Hurricane Irene when there was talk of holding FEMA aid hostage to yet another budget cut.
But Christie's resurgence in some polls hasn't translated into support for Republicans looking towards November's state legislative races, when all 40 state senate and 80 assembly seats are up.
Nearly half of voters polled said they preferred the Democratic Party maintain control of the State Assembly and the Senate, while 34 percent said they want the Republican Party to takeover the two chambers. It was a closer call between the critical unaffiliated voters who went 31 percent for Republicans and 35 percent for Democrats.
Since taking office, Christie has remained on a campaign footing. And even now, with Christie's re-election campaign still two years off in 2013, his boosters have TV ads in heavy rotation on pricey New York airwaves extolling Christie's bi-partisan record for public employee pension reform.
Listen to Bob Hennelly talk about this issue on The Takeaway: