2016 campaign checklist: Christie

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Associated Press

Posted on January 23, 2014 at 6:06 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 23 at 10:04 AM

A look at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's preparations for a potential 2016 presidential campaign:

Nondenial denial: "I am not going to declare tonight ... that I am or I'm not running for president." — October 2013 governor's debate. "I won't make those decisions until I have to."

Book: Not yet, and it's a conspicuous gap, but there's time.

Iowa: Yes, in 2012. Also in 2011 and 2012 to help Rep. Steve King raise money. More politically driven travel is clearly in the cards now that he's chairman of Republican Governors Association for 2014 election year.

New Hampshire: Yes, three times in the 2012 campaign, endorsing Mitt Romney in a visit to the state, campaigning for him there in January 2012 and returning in September for Ovide Lamontagne, GOP nominee who lost governor's race. Schmoozed with New Hampshire delegates at GOP convention. The day after his November 2013 re-election win in New Jersey, the New Hampshire GOP announced the hiring of Christie's regional director, Matt Mowers, as its executive director.

South Carolina: Yes, visited in 2012 to help Romney raise money.

Foreign travel: Yes. First official trip overseas was in July 2012, to Israel, then Jordan. Visited Western Wall, met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told him Israel and New Jersey are similar in size and population but New Jersey probably has "better neighbors."

Meet the money: Yes, became RGA chairman in November 2013, giving him regular access to GOP's top national donors. In that capacity, met donors in Idaho and Vermont in December 2013. Went on an aggressive national fundraising tour in early 2013, courting GOP donors in New York City, the Washington area, Boston and Miami. Also raised money in Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas and California, where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted an event at his Palo Alto home. Attended Romney's retreat in Utah in June, joining Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in hanging out with major GOP donors.

Networking: Yes, but not the usual conservative activist network. Broad outreach now as NGA chairman, a position that offers regular face time with top party officials and donors nationwide. Also was keynote speaker at 2012 Republican National Convention. At Aspen Institute in July 2013, started spat with Paul from afar, criticizing libertarians in the party. Spoke to Conservative Political Action Conference in 2012 but not invited in 2013. Invited to speak to Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom conference, but declined and instead appeared with Bill Clinton in Chicago to talk about disaster relief.

Hog the TV: Yes but not the usual sober circuit. Late-night guest with David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Jimmy Fallon, occasional news-show guest. Brief appearance on "Saturday Night Live" and played himself on an episode of the new sitcom "The Michael J. Fox Show" in fall 2013. Did four Sunday news shows in one day after his 2013 re-election.

Do something: Won November 2013 re-election, becoming first Republican to earn more than 50 percent of the New Jersey vote in a quarter-century. Led state's response to Superstorm Sandy. Agreed to expand state's Medicaid program under Obama's health law, while some other Republican governors have refused to do so. Vetoed a bill that would have sanctioned gay marriage, but declined to appeal a court ruling that legalized it. Signed law increasing pension and health costs for public workers.

Take a stand: Bridges partisan divide. Showed in disaster response that pragmatism trumped party labels. In re-election, outperformed Republicans elsewhere among women and minority voters. Moderate stance could be a strength in a presidential election, although a weakness in striving for his party's nomination, because accommodation is not what core constituencies of either party want to see. But he's pleased some conservatives by taking on labor unions, voicing opposition to gay marriage and to abortion rights except in case of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.

Baggage: If you have to declare "I am not a bully," you've got a problem. Christie apologized in January 2014 for highway lane closures apparently ordered by his aides as political retribution against a mayor who did not endorse him for re-election. He also fired his deputy chief of staff and denied knowledge of the machinations. The episode deepened questions about what Christie, or at least those around him, will do to win, and took an apparent toll in his popularity. A Rutgers-Eagleton survey after the traffic tie-up tempest found a 19-point dive in his favorability rating in New Jersey; a national Quinnipiac University poll found about one-third of respondents less likely to vote for him for president than before. Investigations are underway into the traffic episode and an allegation his administration linked Sandy aid to approval for a real estate project.

Shadow campaign: RGA chairmanship allows him to grow his national profile with voters and party officials with regular travel and key appearances. Began building broad coalition of donors through his national fundraising tour in spring 2013. There were also "draft Christie" movements in Iowa and South Carolina in 2011, where activists continue to support him. Hired senior Romney media mind Russ Schriefer in late spring 2013.

Social media: More engaged in Twitter ("It was great to be able to visit with the owners of Rossi's Rent-A-Rama in Ortley today") than Facebook, where posts are by staff. No second-guessing himself in this postelection tweet: "if I walk away with 70 percent of my agenda, NJ is 70 percent better off than it would have been otherwise."

EDITOR'S NOTE _ 2014 is a year of auditioning, positioning, networking and just plain hard work for people who might run for president in 2016. There's plenty to do, and the pace has quickened since The Associated Press last took a broad look at preparations for a potential campaign. Here's a look at one prospective candidate.

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