Chris Christie Aide Stokes Presidential Questions, Backs Off

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 21, 2011   |   12:43PM   |   Trenton, NJ

An aide to pro-life New Jersey Governor Chris Christie unintentionally — or not — stoked questions over the weekend about whether the governor would potentially consider a bid for the White House.

Christie has repeatedly said he will not be a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2012 to take on pro-abortion President Barack Obama. But one of the governor’s closest aides, Bill Palatucci, did nothing to help stop the widespread media speculation when he told the New Jersey Courier–Post the Christie team is considering forming a presidential exploratory committee.

“I might frankly contemplate that,” Palatucci is quoted by the newspaper as saying. “There’s so much interest out there; it’s leaving money on the table by not having one.”

Yet, he also said,  “If these national guys were serious, they would see there is absolutely no evidence he is running.”

But, shortly after the comments created a buzz over the Internet, Palatucci backed down and told Politico he was not referring to a presidential exploratory committee but a political action committee that would allow Christie to raise money to support candidates in other states. Most elected officials with a national stature on either side of the partisan divide have such political action committees that allow them to connect with candidates across the country to build relationships, press for candidates who share their political views, or to help fund trips and other activities to raise their own stature further.

“I never said nor did I intend to imply that I or anyone else was considering an exploratory committee,” Palatucci told Politico. “I was musing about creating a federal committee.”

The newspaper eventually included an explanation in its story, saying, “The Courier-Post originally reported Palatucci had been mulling a presidential exploratory committee. He emailed Sunday to clarify that he was referring to a federal political action committee, or PAC.”

Governor Christie, for his part, said after a well-received speech at the American Enterprise Institute last week that he is definitely not running for president.

“What do I have to do short of suicide to convince people I’m not running?” Christie joked. “Apparently I actually have to commit suicide.”

Last weekend, Christie tied for third in the annual Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll despite having no formal representation there. The results are evidence of the support Christie has in Republican and conservative circles already.

Christie has also developed a strong reputation in the pro-life movement with his two vetoes of bills funding the Planned Parenthood abortion business and his well-received speech at a pro-life rally in January marking the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decisions allowing virtually unlimited abortions.