TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) –Gov. Chris Christie insists he won’t seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, but a new poll released Thursday indicates he could give President Barack Obama a tough fight if he does.
A nationwide Fairleigh Dickinson-PublicMind Poll pits several potential GOP candidates against Obama in head-to-head matchups.
It finds Obama with double-digit leads over former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. However, Obama polls only 6 percentage points higher than Christie.
Only former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney outperform Christie, with both running about even with Obama.
The poll of 800 registered voters nationwide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cellphones from March 21-28. It has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Since taking office a little more than a year ago, Christie has become hugely popular and a darling of the national Republican Party.
A talk show regular and star on YouTube and Twitter, he’s also increasingly becoming a headliner at campaign events for conservative candidates, and a favorite of some Republicans looking to the 2012 presidential race — something he routinely shoots down.
At a town hall event this week in southern New Jersey, an attendee asked Christie how he could help the governor get elected president.
“I love the fact that you want to ask that question and feel that way about me. I’m extremely flattered,” Christie said, before dashing the man’s hopes. “For the 850th time, I’m not running for the president of the United States.”
Christie said running for president now is “not my calling” and that he’s not ready for the job.
However, Christie has been cashing in on his newfound popularity, headlining a fundraiser in Washington on Wednesday night for the National Republican Congressional Committee that raised $10 million — about $2 million more than the group’s goal.
Next week, he’ll join former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for a fundraising dinner in New York City with proceeds going to the New Jersey Republican Party. The GOP is looking to gain control of the state Legislature in November, when all 120 seats are up for election.
Tickets for cocktail hour at the Soho Grand Hotel event run $1,000 and jump to $25,000 per person for those who want to attend dinner.
Local GOP lawmakers are thrilled at the governor’s newfound fundraising prowess, especially as they head into election season within newly drawn legislative maps, which are set to be released later in the week.
“Over the years, we’ve been the minority in down in Trenton — we’ve been outspent and outgunned in terms of ability to raise money,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, R-Westfield. “Finally, we have a governor that is hugely popular around the country and that helps.”
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