New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at an event on Oct. 7, 2014, in New Brunswick, N.J.
Photo by Mel Evans/AP

Christie hits the road to key 2016 states

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is hitting the road this month to attend a slew of inauguration ceremonies for his fellow governors – a move that’s being seen as a way to build his national profile ahead of a potential presidential run, particularly because several inaugurations are ever-so-conveniently in crucial 2016 states.

The Republican’s travel schedule will be packed in January. Christie was in Tallahassee , Florida, on Tuesday to attend Sunshine State Gov. Rick Scott’s oath of office. He also has plans to attend gubernatorial inauguration ceremonies in Massachusetts, Ohio, South Carolina, Illinois, Iowa, and Maryland, said Nicole Sizemore, communications director for the New Jersey Republican Party. 

Sizemore told msnbc that the NJGOP would be paying for his upcoming travel “just as it has in the past for his trips to political events out of state.” As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie visited more than 36 states last year and helped propel seven new GOP governors into office during the midterm elections. 

“With his tenure at the RGA concluding, there’s no real impetus for Gov. Christie to travel to these states other than his own presidential ambitions,” said Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at New Jersey’s Montclair State University. “Short of an announcement, this is the clearest sign yet in terms of his intention of running for president.”

RELATED: Let the 2016 election games begin!

The choice of states hardly seems a coincidence. Florida and Ohio, of course, are big  presidential swing states while South Carolina and Iowa are crucial, early voting states in the nominating process. Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland meanwhile are traditionally blue states (much like New Jersey) where Christie helped elect GOP governors in the midterms.

Christie’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Not only do the visits provide the opportunity for Christie to take a victory lap, they are a way for Christie to “remind everybody, including these new governors that he played a role in getting them there. It also puts him in the position to meet potential fundraisers and other sources of support if he decides to run nationally,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University.

Pressure may be building on Christie, especially in light of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s announcement on Tuesday that he is launching a new leadership political action committee, which comes on the heels of Bush  acknowledging last month he will “actively explore the possibility” of running for the nation’s highest office. The move to form a leadership PAC gives Bush a fundraising vehicle and allows him to set up donor lists, hire staff, travel around the country, and raise his profile.

All In with Chris Hayes, 1/5/15, 8:30 PM ET

Is Christie's team choice really a big deal?

Chris Hayes makes the case for why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s allegiance to the Dallas Cowboys is really…no big deal.
Christie and Bush, both establishment Republicans, would potentially vie for the same pool of mainstream cash should they both decide to run for president.

“Each step Bush takes closer to announcing his definitive candidacy puts increased pressure on Chrsitie. “As he travels around to these various states, one of the messages he’ll be receiving is ‘you need to make a decision.’”

Redlawsk added, “Bush’s move pushes Christie’s time-table up a little bit. By summer, these will no longer be potential candidates. They will be actual candidates.”

Christie, whose administration was embroiled in scandal over seemingly politically-motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, has said he would likely make a decision whether or not to run for president in 2016.

According to the latest RealClearPolitics average of polling data surrounding the still nascent 2016 presidential nomination, Bush holds a slight lead over potential GOP contenders with 17%. Close behind are Christie with 11.2%, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin with 10%, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky with 8.6%. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are all tied with 8% each.

Chris Christie and Jeb Bush

Christie hits the road to key 2016 states