Chris Christie untroubled by an ally supporting Jeb Bush for president
Gov. Chris Christie said Monday night that a decision by one of his closest friends to back former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is "just politics, not personal."
State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, who chaired Christie's 2009 gubernatorial campaign and was introduced to his wife, Susan, by Christie, surprised political observers by giving a $10,000 donation to Bush's political action committee.
Speaking on Monday night's 'Ask the Governor" program, the governor said: "Joe and Susan and I have been friends for over 20 years and we'll always continue to be friends. "This is politics. It's a business decision. He's made a business decision; he thinks Jeb Bush is a better candidate for president."
But despite the presidential talk, Christie was clearly not ready to say he's running or even when he'll make his decision. "I'll decide when I decide," he said.
Christie said his relationship with Bush also remains cordial, but added: "Remember, he (Bush) hasn't announced anything either."
A few hours earlier, Mary Pat Christie told reporters that her decision to leave a job on Wall Street does not signal an imminent decision by her husband to announce his presidential candidacy.
The first lady, whose final day with Angelo, Gordon & Co. was last Friday, told reporters covering an appearance in Franklin Township Monday that leaving her job will enable her to spend more time with her two youngest children, who are 14 and 11. The Christie's also have two children in college.
While she also acknowledged she'll have more time to travel with her husband "around the state and elsewhere," Mrs. Christie also said the governor has not made a decision about running for president in 2016.
"She's been thinking about this for a while," Christie said of his wife's decision to leave her job. "It makes my life easier when she's around and not in New York every day." He also said his life on the potential national campaign trail was made easier by her presence. With Mary Pat, he said, "I can react to things in a way that's completely natural and not have to worry about what I say."
Mary Pat has been the family's main breadwinner and reported earning more than $500,000 in the couple's 2013 tax filings. Not enough for Christie to "feel wealthy," the governor said Monday night. "I don't feel wealthy but I certainly know we've done very well and I'm very proud of Mary Pat."
"She was number 9 of 10 children," Christie said. "We both came from pretty modest means and been able to become pretty successful."
The program was streamed live on the New Jersey 101.5 YouTube channel. Among other topics covered:
- Christie declared, in response to an emailed question: "I'm not giving drivers licenses to people who are undocumented," describing the issue as one of "homeland security" for New Jersey. Brick Township's council recently passed a resolution calling for the legislature to grant drivers license to residents who are not in the country legally.
- Defended his call for raising the Social Security retirement age to a caller named Jeff, who pointed out that the age had already been raised during the Reagan administration in the 1980's. 'Hey Jeff, you're living longer than when Reagan was here," Christie said. "Reagan was here 30 years ago. . . if we don't do it, the money's not going to be there."
- Brushed off recent polls showing his approval ratings plummeting in New Jersey. "I don't care," he said. "Polls will change," he said. "They do all the time." He added, "I'm never running for office in New Jersey again."
- Heard an emotional plea from a woman who said her home in Toms River was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy and is unable to comply with new flood zone height restrictions. Christie promised to put someone in touch with her Tuesday.
- Contrasted the improving relationship between police and the community in Camden with the recent upheaval and violence in Baltimore after the death of a man denied medical treatment after being arrested. But he declined to Baltimore officials as they coped with Monday's violence, saying: "My thoughts and my prayers are with the people of Baltimore right now. . . it's easy enough from a distance to critique public officials."
Christie told Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon last week that it would likely be another month or two before he does decide about a presidential run. "I would say May or June, we'll be letting everybody know what we decide," Christie told Fallon.
And on the March edition of "Ask the Governor," Christie said his decision-making process was on a "late spring, early summer" timetable.
Meanwhile, several other GOP contenders have jumped into the 2016 race with both feet, including U.S. senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. On the campaigning-while-not announcing trail, Christie is joined by former Florida Gov. Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, among others.
Christie said Monday night that he will be making more policy addresses like his speech in New Hampshire earlier this month in which proposed major changes in Social Security.
"Social Security was created as insurance against poverty for the elderly," Christie said. "The fact is that we need to get it back to its core mission. . . if you're making more than $200,000 a year in retirement income, do you really need to get a Social Security check every month?"
Associated Press also contributed to this report.