New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has made it official, he will not be a presidential candidate in 2012. Christie’s announcement put to an end weeks of speculation about whether the popular conservative governor would join the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Christie’s potential candidacy had excited some Republicans who are not happy with the current crop of presidential contenders.
Christie said he thought long and hard about joining the race after being urged to do so by what he called “serious people” in the Republican Party as well as average Americans. “I have explored the options, listened to so many people and considered whether this was something that I needed to take on. But in the end, what I have always felt was the right decision remains the right decision today. Now is not my time. I have a commitment to New Jersey that I simply will not abandon," he said.
Christie’s decision not to join the 2012 presidential field follows a new poll that shows support for Texas Governor Rick Perry dropping. Perry had led the field in recent weeks, but has been hurt by some poor debate performances.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll found former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney back on top with 25 percent, followed by Perry and Georgia businessman Herman Cain tied for second at 16 percent each.
Cain is the only African-American in the Republican field and has become a surprise contender in recent weeks, winning some straw polls, or test votes and increasing his visibility. “Two months ago my name ID [identification] was 21 percent. Today my name ID based upon the last Gallup Poll is about 51 percent," he said.
Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich placed fifth in the latest poll and says the rise of the little-known Herman Cain has excited conservative voters looking for a fresh face in 2012. “It is a wide open race. The one thing that Herman Cain has proven is that it is not a Perry-Romney race," he said.
With Perry dropping in the polls and Christie out of the running, Mitt Romney appears to be solidifying his position as once again the frontrunner in the Republican field.
Romney continues to focus on President Obama, as he did during a recent town hall appearance in the state of New Hampshire. “I have a hard time understanding how it is he lays the blame for what is happening in America on the American people. It is not that we have become soft or unable to get up and run. It is that he is on our shoulders and he is too heavy. We want to get him off our shoulders so we can run again," he said.
The real battle for the Republican nomination may get underway earlier than anyone had imagined.
Florida’s recent decision to move up the date of its presidential primary vote to late January is likely to push other states to hold caucuses and primaries earlier to select the nominee. The state of South Carolina this week moved its primary date to mid-January.
Alexander Burns of online publication Politico says that voting for a Republican nominee is likely to begin in early January. “And it forces states like South Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire to go ever closer to New Year’s. That really cuts the amount of time that candidates have to campaign before the voting starts," he said.
The latest twists and turns in the Republican race come as President Barack Obama battles low approval ratings. Mr. Obama told ABC News this week that he is now the underdog in next year’s campaign, given the weak state of the U.S. economy.