As Gov. Chris Christie continues to fend off entreaties from the GOP to run for President, five former governors spoke this week to NJTV’s NJ Today and weighed in on Christie’s style and the chances he’ll run for the nation’s top job.
“New Jersey is the most powerful governorship in the country,” said former Gov. Tom Kean, who along with former Governors Brendan Byrne, Jim Florio, Christie Whitman and Dick Codey spoke with NJTV’s NJ Today as part of its Governors on New Jersey series. “Texas is one of the weaker governor(ships) in the country. Can you run from Texas – maybe – it doesn’t matter if the governor is there or not. But in New Jersey it does, and in most states it does…and I don’t think (Christie) can spend all his time in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. I don’t think you can do that and be a good governor. I really don’t.”
Byrne, a Democrat who preceded Kean in office, disagreed on Christie’s ability to run for President and maintain the governorship, invoking former Gov. Woodrow Wilson, who ran for and won the Presidency to become one of of only two U.S. Presidents from New Jersey.
“Woodrow Wilson did it. It’s doable,” he said. “I think Christie is making his own judgments as to what he can do and what he can’t do.”
Echoing comments Christie himself made Thursday during an event at Rider University’s Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, Codey said a run for President is an all-consuming grind, one that demands total commitment.
“I was with (Bill) Bradley in 2000 (during his Presidential bid). He rarely slept in his bed at home. I mean, it’s grinding. It’s grueling. You’ve got to be completely devoted to it. And I don’t know if the Governor is up to that task… mentally,” Codey told NJTV’s Mike Schneider.
During the Rider event, Christie spoke about the demands of a presidential bid and said not only is it something a candidate has to want, but it’s something a candidate has to feel he has to do. At this point, it isn’t, he said, repeating his oft-uttered denial.
“So it’s got to be something that you and your family really believes is not only the right thing to do but I think what you must do at that time in your life both for you and your country,” Christie said. “And for me the answer to that was it isn’t. And if you don’t feel that deeply in your heart that it is than you have no business asking anybody for their money or their vote and that’s why I said no.”
In an interview to air today, the former governors weighed in on Christie’s style, with Codey calling him a bully and Byrne saying he was willing to put up with the “irritation” so long as Christie was getting things done.
“I don’t like the way he comes across as a bully at times,” Codey said. “I agree with a lot of his policies, but I have this feeling that when you’re governor, you lead by example. And sometimes in the way he talks in a demeaning way to the public, I think is wrong.”
Kean, who was a mentor to Christie and who like the current governor is a resident of Livingston, also pulled no punches.
“He offends some people which I don’t think need to be offended sometimes…he seems to make enemies and keeps them…But that’s him, that’s his style, that’s his personality and that’s who he is,” Kean said, adding that his style seems to be catching on around the country.
Florio, a Democrat who took the helm of the state between Kean and Whitman, was complimentary of the governor, calling his style “fitting for the times.”
“He has a style that is very direct. He has a style that offers people solutions, sometimes a little bit overly simplified, but that’s what people want, so he’s not paying a price for that,” Florio said.