Christie: Focus is on 2014, not the White House

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – It took just one question Thursday to get to the issue that seemingly everyone wants to ask Gov. Christie about – 2016.

“I’m stunned that we’ve gotten that question right out of the box,” Christie deadpanned here at his first, and only, public appearance at the Republican Governor’s Association conference, where he is set today to become the group’s chairman.

“2016’s a long way away and I’m two weeks out of a campaign and I’m not looking to start speculating about other campaigns already,” Christie said to a roomful of national and local reporters.

Christie stressed that his focus is on getting fellow Republican governors elected in 2014. He refused to engage in any speculation about future campaigns for higher office, the topic on many minds as Christie takes on a plum political job that will have him crisscrossing the country to help his colleagues, giving him a chance to build contacts and impress far-flung audiences.

“We have 20 incumbent (Republican) governors up in 2014," Christie said, so anyone at the RGA "starts thinking about 2016 at our own peril.”

“My focus is going to be raising the funds that are necessary to be able to get the stories of these governors out," Christie said.

The timing for Christie’s remarks couldn’t have been better for his message. He met with reporters just as the Senate was invoking the so-called “nuclear option” in a fight over presidential nominees, displaying more of the dysfunction that governors here have railed against. Nearly every public statement at the conference has centered on how state executives, not Capitol Hill lawmakers, will be the driving force for the Republican party and a national economic recovery.

“What you’ve seen over the last two days (at the conference) is the incredible contrast between what you see being discussed here and accomplished by the people on this stage and our other colleagues as opposed to what’s going on in Washington DC,” Christie said.

He added, “Everyone up here has strongly held beliefs and convictions … but we also know we have a job to do. What we’re hired to do is to run our states and do our job.”

We'll have more on his comments today and his new job online here and in Friday's Inquirer.