January 26, 2015 / 5:39 AM / 4 years ago

New Jersey governor Christie takes step toward White House bid

(Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his supporters have formed a political action committee ahead of a likely bid for president, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

The political action committee, or PAC, called Leadership Matters for America, is the clearest sign yet that Christie, 52, is running in the Republican Party primary for the 2016 presidential election.

With the PAC formation, Christie said there are people who “want to be supportive of me continuing to look at the problems in the country.” Christie made the remark during a press conference about an approaching snow storm on Monday.

Among those serving on the PAC are long-time Christie allies Michael DuHaime and Bill Palatucci, as well as Phil Cox, executive director of the Republican Governors Association, the source said. Christie was chairman of the RGA until he was succeeded in November by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

Paperwork for the leadership PAC was filed on Friday with the Federal Election Commission, the source said. The Wall Street Journal first reported the establishment of the PAC on Monday.

The move adds a third well-known Republican figure to the fight for campaign funds among the party’s main donors. Christie has struggled to stay relevant as potential rivals, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and 2012 nominee Mitt Romney grabbed attention from operatives and donors.

Some observers think Christie is “late to the game” because Bush established his PACs last month, but they overlook that Christie had other sources of funding for his appearances across the country, said Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth University’s Polling Institute.

Christie has been able to draw from his stint as the RGA’s chairman and to use money from the New Jersey GOP to “underwrite everything from travel to Christmas cards sent to Republican voters in Iowa,” Murray said. “The state party’s books are currently in the red, so it makes sense to turn to PAC financing at this time.”

Christie has not declared a bid for the presidency, but he has discussed national themes in speeches and was in Iowa, an important state in the primary elections, this weekend for a summit attended by influential Republican activists.

Christie, who many conservatives see as a moderate, touted his ability to appeal to a broad segment of the electorate, from Hispanics to independent voters.

He said the party needs crossover appeal and made light of his blunt, direct style that sometimes draws criticism. “If you want someone you agree with 100 percent of the time, go home and look in the mirror,” Christie said in Iowa.

According to a poll released last Thursday, nearly three in five registered voters in New Jersey do not think Christie would make a good U.S. president.

Christie’s popularity was dented by revelations that officials in his administration ordered closures on the George Washington Bridge in 2013 in an apparent political retaliation against a town mayor who did not endorse him.

More recently, he’s been immersed in a controversy over whether he should have gone to Texas for a Jan. 4 Dallas Cowboys game at the expense of team owner Jerry Jones.

Polls have consistently shown Bush ahead of Christie in a potential Republican presidential primary. Voters would also elect Democrat Hillary Clinton over Christie in the general election, according to the most recent polls.

Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York, Doina Chiacu in Washington and Supriya Kurane in Bengaluru; Editing by Catherine Evans and Grant McCool

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