TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is reconsidering his decision to stay out of the race for the White House in 2012 and is expected to make a decision soon, according to several people close to the governor with knowledge of his thinking.
Christie has long said he won't run in 2012. But those close to the first-term governor, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, say he is rethinking his hard stance.
A decision will have to come fast. Filing deadlines in primary states are weeks away.
Calls have been intensifying from top GOP donors and party elders for Christie to jump into the race. President Barack Obama's weak approval ratings and a Republican field that has been struggling to put forward a clear front-runner are also creating an opening for Christie.
Christie may think twice about moving forward, however. GOP latecomers have jumped in to see a big initial splash, only to tread water.
Michele Bachmann leapfrogged ahead of Mitt Romney only to be pushed back when Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined the field in August after months of insisting he had no interest. But after two shaky performances at debates, Perry now, too, seems vulnerable to getting picked off.
Unlike Perry, Christie is most at home behind a podium and seems to relish debate — most often with the press corps.
New Jersey's pugnacious governor has been asked about his presidential aspirations practically since taking the oath of office in January 2010. But until this week, he has swatted down the idea repeatedly, consistently and colorfully.
He said he wouldn't run because he wasn't ready, because his wife wouldn't let him and because "I'm not crazy, that's why." A more famous reply came about a year ago when he said that "short of suicide" he wasn't sure what he could say to convince people that he's not running.
But after a whirlwind week campaigning and fundraising in Missouri, Louisiana and California, which included a speech on Tuesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in which the characteristically blunt Christie repeatedly criticized Obama, he started to dial back his denials — he stopped saying he wasn't ready to be president and started referring reporters to previous statements.
When asked about running, Christie urged a capacity audience gathered at the Reagan Library to look at the website Politico, which had pieced together a long string of video clips of him saying he's not a candidate for the White House.
"Those are the answers," he told the crowd.
Christie later said he was flattered by suggestions that he should run in 2012, but added, "that reason has to reside inside me."
"And so, my answer to you is just this: I thank you for what you are saying, and I take it in and I'm listening to every word of it and feeling it to," he added.
Later in the week, he dialed up his criticism of the president.
"If you're looking for leadership in America you're not going to find it in the Oval Office," Christie said at a rally in Louisiana before a fundraiser.
Before the speech at the Reagan library, Christie's brother Todd told The Star-Ledger of Newark that there was no change in Christie's decision to run.
"I'm sure that he's not going to run," Todd Christie said. "If he's lying to me, I'll be as stunned as I've ever been in my life."
But after the speech, Christie's inner circle clamped down and Christie didn't make any other public comments about it.
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