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Why Chris Christie isn't running for president

Despite polls showing he would have been an instant contender, Chris Christie said now is not the time to seek the GOP nomination, saying his passion is for his job as New Jersey governor.

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Christie would have entered the race as top contender. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll showed a fair amount of interest in a Christie candidacy among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Forty-two percent said they wanted him to run. Among the rest, 34 percent said they did not want him to run, and 24 percent either had no opinion or did not know.

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Perhaps 42 percent was not a groundswell, but a lot of Americans are still not focused on the race. As a candidate, Christie would have gotten major media attention and could have built up a constituency quickly. When included in a hypothetical primary matchup with the rest of the GOP field, the Post-ABC poll found Christie got 10 percent, behind Romney (21 percent), businessman Herman Cain (16 percent), and Perry (16 percent).

Without Christie in the race, Romney still polls first – but at only 25 percent. The lack of a consensus among GOP voters and Perry’s fading star have left a clear opening for a new, strong candidate. But with Christie’s opt-out, the GOP field is likely set.

The only other major Republican who has hinted at a run and not announced either way is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. But polls of Republican voters show that most would not be willing to vote for her for the Republican nomination.

Christie, on the other hand, had plenty of room to grow. And if he had run, he would likely have taken more votes away from Romney than the more conservative candidates in the field, such as Perry and Mr. Cain. The Post-ABC poll showed that 47 percent of moderate/liberal Republicans wanted Christie to run. Among conservatives, 39 percent wanted him in the race.

Even if Christie had found the fire in the belly to run, time had grown exceedingly short. Late last week, time got even shorter, when Florida announced it was moving its primary to Jan. 31. That maneuver is likely to mean that the four earliest nominating states will all push their contests into January, or even December 2011, in the case of New Hampshire. Filing deadlines for those early primaries are just a few weeks away.

Money may have been the least of Christie’s worries. He would have needed to start competing in debates immediately, and could easily have been tripped up on issues that are of lesser concern to an East Coast governor, such as foreign policy. Perry’s late entry into the race on Aug. 13 and his subsequent stumbles have shown Christie the perils of running without long advance preparation.

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