New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is wrapping up his three-day trade mission in Mexico, a trip that’s fueling speculation that the Republican is seriously considering a 2016 presidential bid and is trying to beef up his foreign policy resume.
On Friday he visits the city and state of Puebla, where many Mexicans now living in New Jersey originally come from. So far, Christie has toured local companies, met with business leaders in Mexico City and sat down with the country’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto.
Christie has taken just one other trip outside the country as governor—to Israel in 2012. Whether or not the Mexico trip helps woo potential Hispanic voters (After all, failed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney accrued just 27% of the demographic’s vote in 2012) is yet to be seen.
Here are five takeaways from Christie’s trip so far:
1. He won’t talk about immigration
Border security and immigration – especially in light of the recent flood immigrants illegally crossing the U.S. border – is the number one, hot-button issue between the two countries. But Christie, while in Mexico, is refusing to weigh in.
The governor told reporters he would only discuss the issue “if and when I become a candidate for president of the United States.” He added, “But until that time, that’s not my job and it’s not my role.” Back in July, Christie told a Colorado crowd that President Obama’s unwillingness to visit the Mexico border was an indication of his “unwillingness to lead.”
Other potential GOP candidates, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have surveyed the U.S.-Mexico border. Christie has no plans to do so during his trip.
“What would I do exactly?” Christie asked at a news conference about whether or not he’d stop by the border. “Like you know bring troops with me or something? I mean come on. This is silliness. If I went down there and looked at it, what steps am I supposed to take exactly? Send the New Jersey National guard there?”
2. But he will talk about Keystone
The governor delivered a policy speech at the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico, in which he praised the controversial Keystone Pipeline project.
“We are missing an enormous opportunity when we delay development of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” said Christie. “… It should have been done a long time ago. It should have been done today.” He also urged for the U.S. to green light nature gas pipelines between America and Mexico in a thinly-veiled attack on Obama, who he did not mention by name.
Proponents of Keystone, mainly Republicans, say the plan, which would create a pipeline from Canada to Texas, would create thousands of jobs and make the country less dependent on foreign sources, although critics say the project would release dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.
3. There have been plenty of references to 2016
The governor has insisted the trip is about job creation and higher education opportunities (he did sign a higher education agreement between the Garden State and Mexico) but there’s been several references to the 2016 presidential race.
Besides insisting he won’t talk about immigration unless he makes an official bid, he also dropped another hint, telling reporters, “If you’re a national leader of the party and you go abroad and you meet other foreign leaders, you learn. And that will make you a better leader whether you run for anything else.” Christie quickly added, “Or whether you just continue to try to be an influential governor in our country.”
Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University told msnbc.com earlier this week, “If there was any doubt about the governor’s presidential ambitions, this trip should allay them.” He added, “You don’t make these kinds of trips from New Jersey at this time of the year with the chatter going on about your presidential ambitions unless those ambitions are true.”
4. Christie tones down his signature, brash style
The Chris Christie, who once called a student an “idiot” or told a voter to “shut up” at his town halls in New Jersey, did not employ his brash, bold style in Mexico. Several reporters have noted how he’s been more reserved.
Christie reportedly explained his multifaceted personality, saying while he can be “flamboyant,” he isn’t always that way. “So when I’m down here and I’m in a context where a certain measure of behavior is necessary, then that’s the way I act.” He added, “You know, I have more than one club in the bag.”
5. He’ll have to share the stage with Hillary Clinton
The former secretary of state, who is considered a Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 race, is also in Mexico on Friday.
Christie’s potential rival is attending a charity event hosted by billionaire Carlos Slim. While there, according to Bloomberg, Clinton will brush shoulders with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, soccer star Ronaldinho and actor Antonio Banderas.