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I’m not a presidential candidate, Chris Christie says -- in Iowa

Chris Christie swung through Iowa on Monday, raising questions about his political ambitions in the state that holds the first voting contest in the nation.

The New Jersey governor has repeatedly said he will not run  for president in 2012, and he repeated that on Monday.

“In the end, it’s something you’ve got to believe in your heart is necessary for you to do with your life. As I said before, I don’t feel that at the moment,” Christie told reporters after speaking at an education summit.

He has faced repeated entreaties from supporters, which he said he found “overwhelming.” But he said the decision was a personal one for him and his family. He said recently told a group of New York City fundraisers: “When I’m in that hotel room in Des Moines and it’s 15 below and the alarm clock goes off at 4 o’clock in the morning, none of you are going to be there.”

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Christie said he does not know if he will endorse anyone in the GOP field, and no candidate to date has excited him enough to do it, but that could change in the upcoming months of campaigning.

“To get there I have to feel that way about one of the people offering themselves for president,” he said. “If that moment comes, I certainly won’t keep it a secret.”

Christie denied that he was trying to lay the groundwork for a 2016 run.

“Here’s what I have to say about politics -- two months is a long time, let alone five years. I’m not out here to lay any groundwork at all about any kind of future aspiration,” he said. “2016 is a long, long way away.”

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But he is keeping relations warm with Iowa Republicans who could be useful in the future.
 
In the evening, Christie plans to headline a fundraiser for Rep. Steve King, a prominent Iowa conservative. One of the hosts of the event led a delegation of Iowa donors to New Jersey earlier this year to urge Christie to run.

Earlier in the day, Christie spoke at an education summit at the behest of Gov. Terry Branstad, for whom Christie fundraised during his gubernatorial campaign last year.

Christie is known for being frank and somewhat bombastic – he has referred to the leaders of his state’s teachers unions as “political thugs.” But in front of the audience of hundreds  of educators, he took  a more conciliatory tone.

Christie argued that all sides should be able to agree that school districts where most students don’t graduate are failures, and that it wasn’t morally acceptable to blame it on uninvolved parents.

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“I think we spend a lot of time on this issue unfortunately talking about things that we disagree about. We spend a lot of time focused on the issues that divide us in terms of the future of the education system of our country,” he said. “I think as we move toward a very key time in the country’s history, with governors across America looking for ways to try to improve educational opportunities for all of our children regardless of where they live, we need to start focusing more on the things that unite us.”


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