Republicans take Gov. Chris Christie at his word that he won’t run for president, but Christie’s political arm continues to make sure county chairs do not entertain presidential picks at this time.
On a conference call this week, a Christie political strategist told the Republican chairs not to endorse presidential candidates, to according to sources familiar with the call.
The chairs note that it’s early, and locking into a choice for president now would be a mistake, but there’s also grumbling in the ranks about the front office wanting to control everything.
Few – if any – are thrilled with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a presidential candidate whose former state director, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, (R-13), is a potential 2012 candidate for U.S. Senate and a member of Christie’s kitchen cabinet.
Romney jawed with Christie face-to-face at least once at Drumthwacket, according to published reports.
One source said it’s not Christie and it’s not necessarily Romney the Christie political apparatus wants to protect.
It’s simply about power.
“They want to control this whole thing,” griped one chairman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They have to understand that chairmen have county committees we have to answer to and they want us to answer to them. Regardless of what the governor may want all the time, you can’t predict everyone’s going to get in line. They just want it so that when it gets to whoever will be the candidate, the county chairs will get in line behind the governor.
“It’s about him, it’s always about him,” the source added.
Another Central Jersey party source said an animated Christie supporter was stunned when she tried to engage the governor’s political operators recently and received what the source said was a merciless tongue lashing, courtesy of Christie strategist Bill Stepien.
The backroom bellyaching promted at least one chairman to pick up the phone.
“Chris has done a wonderful job for the Republican Party,” Morris County GOP Chairman John Sette told PolitickerNJ.com. “If somebody doesn’t like what he’s doing they should have the balls to say so on the record. Frankly, the only presidential candidate I like is Chris Christie. Chris Christie has taken a million bullets for the Republican Party and for the people of this state, and now some chairman has his nose in a joint. Absurd.”
Republican operatives, elected officials and others acknowledged an uptick in interest right now regarding a 2012 challenger to incumbent President Barack Obama.
One chairman said his committee members like Texas Gov. Rick Perry better than either Romney or Minnestoa Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Another voiced a common point of view in the party when he said he believes Christie would be the only candidate who can defeat Obama, but trusts the governor of New Jersey does not intend to run.
“Anybody but Obama, well, not Pelosi either,” said Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25). “To be bluntly honest, I am not overmuch invested in the race just now. I supported Romney last time, but more because he wasn’t McCain and I didn’t trust McCain — amply borne out, as matters transpired. We keep looking for our Lochinvar; he’s overdue.”
Movement conservative Rick Shaftan already has selected his candidate from the ones currently in the race.
“Bachmann,” he told PolitickerNJ.com. “She’s clearly committed to undoing the President’s Marxist Agenda.”
Matawan Councilman Tom Fitzsimmons, a moderate Republican, said, “Sight unseen, I’d lean Perry, but I really need to learn some more about him. I’m just not a big Romney believer.”
Fitzsimmons, too, said he believes Christie would be the GOP’s best presidential contender.
“I’d be a huge supporter, I think he could win, but I truly believe him when he says he’s not running,” he said.