Christie talks presidency

This article ran in Thursday's Inquirer.

UNION CITY, N.J. - Fresh off a 22-point reelection victory in a Democratic state, Gov. Christie on Wednesday left wide open the possibility of pursuing the presidency and said he didn't mind if reporters kept asking him about running.

"It's flattering and I have no problem with it, but I want to be clear about this: I have a job to do; I was reelected to do a job," Christie said.

"If the time comes where I change my mind and I decide I want to do something else, I'll tell the people of New Jersey I want to do something else," he said. "But this is what I want to do. That's why I ran for reelection."

Christie spoke at his first news conference in seven weeks, in front of a backdrop of dozens of fidgeting students in a school gymnasium in Democratic Union City, which he won with the help of the Mayor Brian Stack, a powerful Democrat and state senator who has long allied with Christie. The Republican governor targeted the heavily Hispanic city, and said the massive rally staged for him there Monday was the "highlight" of his campaign.

Statewide, Christie won 51 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to exit polls, and he said that was the accomplishment he was most proud of. The reason he did better among constituencies such as blacks and women that have been elusive to Republicans is that he built relationships from the start, he said.

"When you come just six months before an election, people are going to be like: 'Where have you been? And why should I trust you? This other guy over here, he's been here for years.' Well, you want to make inroads into a community, you got to get there. And work it. And look at what happened last night," Christie said.

He used his postelection news conference to deliver what amounted to a masters class on how to be a successful Republican politician in America.

"Sometimes I think people make politics too complicated," he said. "It's not that complicated. It's about personal relationships" with voters, staffers, and the Legislature.

He added: "The 51 percent of Latino voters who voted for me last night don't agree with me on every issue, I guarantee you that. But they trust me."

Echoing a theme of his campaign, Christie said his approach to governing was transferable to Washington. "No one is amused or gratified or entertained by what is going on in Washington," he said.

Christie said little about the woman he defeated Tuesday, State Sen. Barbara Buono, other than to say that she was gracious in a 45-second phone call to concede defeat.

Christie detailed a bit of his second-term agenda, including pushing a proposal through the Legislature to give tax breaks to companies that fund scholarships for students in failing schools. He said he would not restore his cuts to the earned income tax credit for the working poor unless Democrats provided tax cuts for residents at all income levels, but he would explore the possibility of allowing in-state college tuition for immigrants in the country illegally.

Other priorities, he said, would be hashed out Thursday in a meeting at his Statehouse office with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), who also won reelection.

One issue not on the agenda: same-sex marriage, which the courts enacted into law last month after Christie's veto. Asked whether the images of gay men and women marrying after years of waiting evoked an emotional response from him, Christie said no.

"I see the wedding announcements in the New York Times on Sunday, I don't get weepy," Christie said. "I know the politic thing is to say that I did, but I didn't. I'm happy if they're happy, the same way I'm happy for any couple that gets married."