WAYNE, N.J. (AP) — With the gubernatorial election less than a month away, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is telling voters that he might not serve out his full second term if elected.
The admission might hurt any other candidate.
But for Christie, it underscores his popularity as a straight-talking Republican in a Democratic state. And it highlights what's at stake in New Jersey's looming gubernatorial election — a contest as much about Christie's presidential aspirations as the governor's race.
He did not laugh off a question about his political future when asked during his first re-election debate Tuesday.
"I am not going to declare tonight ... that I am or I'm not running for president," Christie said. "I won't make those decisions until I have to."
Facing a skeptical moderator, he later quipped: "I can walk and chew gum at the same time. I can do this job and also deal with my future. And that's what I will do."
That's exactly what Christie is doing as he uses his gubernatorial election to make the case for a higher office.
Buoyed by polls suggesting he has a commanding lead in his re-election bid, Christie's team is assembling a broad coalition of supporters — groups of Democrats, union workers, women and minorities that Republican candidates elsewhere struggle to attract. He says his re-election campaign offers a road map of sorts for beleaguered Republicans across the nation as the party works to expand.
"We've got to win elections again. And that's what we're going to show the whole country in New Jersey on Nov. 5," Christie said of his party while greeting volunteers inside his Middlesex County headquarters before the debate.
"I thought that the Republican Party was put into effect to win elections. I didn't think we were some debating society or some group of academic elites that sit around and talk about big ideas but don't do anything about them," he continued. "If you don't win you can't govern. And if you can't govern, you can't change your state or the country. So we have got to get back to the idea of building a broad coalition."