WATCH: Christie flirts with the 2016 question on ‘Ask the Governor’
Gov. Chris Christie flirted with but did not answer the big question Thursday night: "Are you running for president?"
"I will repeat to you my answer which is that I have not decided," Christie said at the outset of Thursday night's "Ask the Governor" program with Eric Scott on New Jersey 101.5
Asked about reports that he will set up a fundraising committee by the end of the month, the governor said, "There's lots of people making lots of suggestions to me about the best way for me to continue to get to know the country better. . . but I haven't made any final decisions about what to do."
Christie said he would not be influenced by moves made by other GOP contenders, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush and 2012 candidate Mitt Romney. He said he has told others, including his staff, "Relax. You know, no one's voting for another 12 and a half months. . . so everybody just calm down. Be relaxed. Look at me, I'm perfectly relaxed."
The governor said he will discuss the 2016 decision with his family but answered "no" when asked if his family could veto a presidential run.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Christie was moving toward creation of a leadership political action committee by the end of the month, an essential step toward funding his further political travels and pursuit of donors for a 2016 run for the White House. The move was described as "a signal of Mr. Christie’s seriousness to allies anxious over the flurry of attention surrounding potential rivals for the nomination."
According to the Times, Christie's leadership PAC "would likely be overseen by Phil Cox, a political consultant who was executive director of the Republican Governors Association while Christie chaired the group.
During his fifth State of the State address Tuesday, Christie gave a slight nod to all of the talk about a possible 2016 presidential run, by telling lawmakers he "will be here next year."
Political observers believe Christie was sending a clear signal that if he runs for president, he will not be stepping down as governor.
The governor said Thursday night that there was no reason he could not continue to lead the state while running for the Republican presidential nomination.
"If he does decide to run he'd want to remain as governor because the New Jersey governorship is the most powerful one in the nation, and so it's a very significant perch from which you can talk about what issues it is you want to talk about," said Rider University Political Science Professor Ben Dworkin.
He said that as the governor of New Jersey "you get Philadelphia network TV, New York network TV, every radio station in the area to cover you, and you effectively become national news."
Dworkin said another reason Christie may also want to continue as the state's governor in case he never makes it to the White House.
"In 2008 Rudy Giuliani was well ahead of everyone else in the polls for president and it didn't happen for him," Dworkin said.
On the flip side, Dworkin believes remaining as governor will present some challenges for Christie, including how he handles the lagging New Jersey economy, the almost bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund and the state's pension fund problems.
"But the governor, among his many political skills, is very good at deflection, so I think he can really overcome those issues," Dworkin said.
He said raising money for a presidential campaign will be more difficult for Christie as governor because there's a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that says anyone that does financial business for a state is not allowed to contribute to the campaign of an executive in that state. The governor can get around this rule, however, because we now have Super Political Action Committees.
"All of these people who are prohibited from contributing to the sitting New Jersey governor can now give to another type of political entity," he said
Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute agrees it makes a lot of sense for Chris Christie to keep his job as governor during a Presidential run.
"It's simply not in Christie's DNA to quit a job, and that's what he would look like if he stepped down as governor, he'd look like, a quitter," Murray said.
Murray said Christie doesn't want people to think he can't handle both jobs: being governor and running for president.
"The biggest advantage for Christie staying as governor is to show that you have confidence in your ability to do the job," he said. "What Chris Christie is running on is, he's the guy to get things done."
When asked if Christie might face more criticism for problems in New Jersey if he's still governor, Murray said "people might take pot shots at him if he remains governor and they might take pot shots at him if he decides to step down as governor, so either way they're going to take shots at him."
Toniann Antonelli and David Matthau also contributed to this story.