New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to announce plans to join the crowded Republican presidential field next week, a prominent Christie backer told msnbc on Thursday.
Christie's political action committee did not confirm the pending announcement, which was first reported by WNYC. But Finn Wentworth, a real estate investor and Christie supporter, said the campaign had contacted him on Wednesday to attend the kickoff announcement June 30 at Livingston High School, Christie's alma mater.
“I’m ecstatic,” Wentworth said. “I think the governor will bring a strong, crisp, consolidating voice into the campaign. I believe that his energy and his ability to go ahead and to energize people around tough issues will be an overall positive for this GOP season.”
Christie deliberately decided to launch his campaign from his hometown — particularly at his high school, where he played on the baseball team and was class president, according to NBC News. Sources also said after the announcement, the governor will "run a multi-state campaign" with an emphasis on New Hampshire. Even though he's jumping into the race later than many other GOPers, sources insisted fundraising "has been going well for somebody not in the race."
Despite the flurry of reports that Christie will kick off his campaign next week, he insisted during his monthly "Ask the governor" radio program on Monday evening that "there's been absolutely no final decision made by me" and there won't be until the state budget is in his rearview mirror. He added, "It's not like I’m going to come out of the front door and whisper [my decision]. ... if there’s going to be a presidential discussion there’s going to be months and months to discuss it.”
But Christie did note that when he does make a decision, his team can act very quickly. "If I told them tomorrow that I wanted to do something on Monday, they’d have it ready. They’re good," he said.
Christie has signaled his intent to join the GOP field for months, making frequent trips to early voting states, including New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. He's also joined his potential GOP rivals at several party cattle calls across the country.
Still, Christie's announcement comes at a low moment in his political career. Once a rising star in the GOP and a man many party insiders all but begged to run for president in 2016, he has dropped to the back of the pack of the emerging 2016 field in many polls, weighed down by budget woes and sagging poll numbers in his home state — not to mention the ongoing scandal known as Bridgegate. Three of Christie’s former allies have been charged in the plot to close lanes and snarl traffic on the George Washington Bridge, the nation's busiest.
Earlier this month, Christie was handed a victory by the New Jersey state Supreme Court when it ruled in the governor's favor in his ongoing dispute with public employee unions over pension cuts. The court said the state doesn’t have to make increased pension payments that were promised as part of an overhaul Christie signed into law in 2011 — sparing Christie from having to find billions of dollars and thus averting a potential budget crisis.
According to a poll released earlier this week by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, just 30% of people in New Jersey approve of the job Christie’s doing, with the majority — 55% — disapproving.
Last month, Christie dismissed his low poll numbers in the state. Fox News’ Megyn Kelly reminded the governor that two-thirds of his own constituents do think he’d be a good president. “They want me to stay,” Christie insisted. “A lot of those people, that 65%, want me to stay. I’ve heard from lots of people at town hall meetings, ‘Don’t leave,’ and ‘don’t run for president because we want you to stay.’”
NBC's Kelly O'Donnell contributed to this report.