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New Jersey’s Gov. Christie on GOP fundraising tour amid presidential-bid speculation

TRENTON, N.J. >> New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who insists he won’t be running for president in 2012, is making the most of the speculation that he might reconsider as he travels the country this week raising money for Republicans, networking with rainmakers and speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Christie’s three-state tour is bringing him to Missouri, California and Louisiana; the trips were being paid for by each state’s GOP organization. It will also bring home a lot of money for the New Jersey state Republican Party, which will see proceeds from three fundraisers the governor is hosting. 

“Gov. Christie’s strong and refreshing approach to solving the challenging issues facing New Jersey has earned him support from voters across New Jersey and America,” said state GOP spokesman Rick Gorka.

Talk of Christie entering the 2012 race for the White House intensified this weekend, pushed in part by Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s shaky debate performance last week and his loss of a key test vote in Florida to businessman Herman Cain on Saturday.

While Christie’s advisers swatted down the notion that he was reconsidering over the weekend, former Gov. Tom Kean, a longtime Christie mentor and confidant, stirred the pot on Monday.

“It’s real,” Kean told the National Review. “He’s giving it a lot of thought. I think the odds are a lot better now than they were a couple weeks ago.”

Reached on his cell phone Monday night, Kean said he was at the opening of the New York Metropolitan Opera and couldn’t talk.

Earlier on Monday, Christie’s second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, said she wasn’t planning on removing the “acting” from her title any time soon.

“I think the governor started something two years ago and we’ve got much further along in our agenda than we anticipated,” said Guadagno, who was serving as the acting governor all week. “I could easily get used to this, but I don’t think the governor is going to run for president.”

Popular nationally among Republicans for his blunt, no-nonsense style, Christie’s weeklong tour started Monday in Missouri with a $10,000-a-plate luncheon fundraiser for the New Jersey state party at the Ritz Carlton. Monday night, he was to headline the Missouri Republican Party’s annual dinner, which is typically the Missouri GOP’s largest fundraiser of the year. 

Today, Christie will be the featured speaker at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Melissa Giller with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation said former first lady Nancy Reagan sent him an invitation to speak in January.

Recent speakers at the library include Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Speakers are invited to address “issues of the day,” Giller said, which often “depends on what they are promoting.”

Christie’s spokeswoman, Maria Comella, said in a statement that the governor’s speech will focus on American “exceptionalism” and “uses President Reagan’s transformative leadership to depict how the United States’ role and significance in the world is defined by who we are at home.”

The governor will then hold a second New Jersey state GOP fundraiser at Morton’s restaurant in Santa Ana, Calif., and a third fundraiser for the state party on Wednesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Wednesday night, he will attend a small dinner at the home of Meg Whitman, the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., who lost in November to Democrat Jerry Brown in the governor’s race. Tickets go from $15,000 to $25,000 a couple.

“The governor is also the leader of the New Jersey Republican Party and in that capacity he is raising the necessary funds for Republicans to be successful in the upcoming elections,” Gorka said.

Christie campaigned for Whitman last year, saying she took her inspiration from him.

Christie will conclude his trip in Louisiana on Thursday at an appearance with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at a Republican fundraiser, where tickets range from $10,000 to $100,000.

Jindal campaigned for Christie in 2009 and the two have remained friends. Jindal has endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for 2012.

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