WASHINGTON — Gov. Chris Christie on Sunday said Republicans had positioned themselves to succeed in gubernatorial races in Democratic-leaning states carried by President Barack Obama, an effort that could burnish the New Jersey Republican’s potential 2016 presidential bid.
Christie said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” that Republicans face a “daunting task” in defending 22 of 36 governor’s seats in November’s election but pointed to competitive campaigns in Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois and Connecticut as fresh evidence of offense heading into the campaign’s final week.
The head of the Republican Governors Association, Christie dismissed criticism his organization had not done enough to support embattled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, another potential 2016 GOP presidential contender.
“I am a complete Scott Walker supporter, always have been, and we’re going to work as hard as we can to make sure he’s re-elected, and I believe he will be re-elected,” Christie said. He said the RGA had spent $6 million on the race this year and he plans to campaign twice for Walker in Wisconsin during the final week.
Christie remains popular with establishment Republicans and has presented himself as an outside force who could attract voters in Republican and Democratic-leaning states alike who remain disillusioned with dysfunction in the nation’s capital. He has sought to repair his image amid the investigation of politically motivated lane closures near the George Washington Bridge last year.
In the interview, Christie reiterated that he had nothing to do with the bridge scandal and said he would make a decision on a presidential campaign in the beginning of 2015.
“All the people of New Jersey know and need to know is that I absolutely had nothing to do with this, and that seems to be the conclusion that some folks are coming to as well, and I know it will be the conclusion ultimately also because I know the truth,” he said.
Christie’s interview followed a fiery speech on Saturday in Iowa in which the governor presented himself in sharp contrast to Obama, an address that sounded like the early makings of a presidential pitch.
The governor painted the picture of a country hungry for leadership and a world adrift, with a feckless White House to blame.
“America used to control events both here at home and around the world. And now it seems that our fate is being dictated to us by others,” Christie said in Iowa, bemoaning what he described as “an extraordinary vacuum of leadership in this country.”
Christie was the featured speaker at fellow GOP Gov. Terry Branstad’s Saturday birthday bash in Clive, outside Des Moines. The event was one of the biggest on the state’s political calendar and gave Christie another opportunity to introduce himself to Republican activists, voters and fundraisers who could propel a potential White House bid in 2016.
The governor has actively campaigned for gubernatorial candidates across the country this fall, helping him raise his profile among voters in a number of states. Christie was holding campaign events on Sunday in Florida for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who faces Democrat Charlie Crist in one of the nation’s tightest governor’s races.