BY THOMAS BEAUMONT
A look at preparations by Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., for a potential 2016 presidential campaign:
Nondenial denial: "Yes, and later." - May, when asked whether he's thinking about running for president, and when he'll decide, at a fiscal conference in Washington. Later in Tennessee: "My mother taught me a long time ago: Stupid people make decisions before they have to. And I'm not stupid."
Book: Not yet, and it's a notable gap.
Iowa visits: Summer visit expected, to help Gov. Terry Branstad in his re-election campaign. Can test his theory that "they love me in Iowa, too." Hosted New Jersey fundraiser for Branstad in May. Several trips before 2012 election. More politically driven travel is coming now that he's chairman of Republican Governors Association for 2014 election year.
New Hampshire: It's been awhile. Three visits in 2012 campaign, slated to return in June. The day after his November 2013 re-election victory in New Jersey, the New Hampshire GOP announced the hiring of Christie's regional director, Matt Mowers, as its executive director. And Christie's former spokesman, Colin Reed, was recently hired to manage Scott Brown's New Hampshire Senate campaign.
South Carolina: Summer visit expected, to raise money for Gov. Nikki Haley. Came in 2012 on behalf of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Foreign travel: Yes. First official trip overseas was in July 2012, to Israel, then Jordan. Visited Western Wall, met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told him Israel and New Jersey are similar in size and population but New Jersey probably has "better neighbors."
Meet the money: Yes, became GOP governors chairman in November, giving him regular access to GOP's top national donors as he helps raise money for candidates. Some big donors, though, question whether he's still a viable prospect after scandal surfaced over politically motivated traffic tie-ups in New Jersey. Was among a handful of high-profile Republicans to meet with super-donor Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas at his resort casino in late March. Followed up with more Jewish donors at New York event attended by Adelson in May. Courted donors for his re-election campaign in 2013 national tour, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted an event at his Palo Alto, California, home.
Networking: Yes, broad outreach now as chairman of GOP governors group, a position that offers regular face time with top party officials and donors nationwide. Campaigned for Sen. Lamar Alexander in Tennessee, irritating Alexander's primary opponent, who called Christie's record in New Jersey "dumb governance." Spring speech pleased activists at Conservative Political Action Conference, which snubbed him last year because he'd been too chummy with President Barack Obama in Superstorm Sandy's aftermath. Addressed Republican Jewish Coalition spring meeting in Las Vegas, spending a full day with top donors and GOP operatives. Scheduled to speak at Romney's annual Utah gathering in June.
Hog the TV: Not so much since traffic scandal surfaced. Last year, tended to avoid the usual sober circuit - most conspicuously, the Sunday news shows, although he appeared on four of them the day after his 2013 re-election - in favor of cutting up on late-night TV.
Do something: Won November 2013 re-election, becoming first Republican to earn more than 50 percent of the New Jersey vote in a quarter-century. Led state's response to Superstorm Sandy. Agreed to expand state's Medicaid program under Obama's health law, while some other Republican governors have refused to do so. Vetoed a bill that would have sanctioned gay marriage but declined to appeal a court ruling that legalized it. Signed law increasing pension and health costs for public workers. Facing massive state budget deficit, proposed slashing pension fund payments over the next year to balance budget.
Take a stand: Bridges partisan divide, though some holes have been punched in that reputation. Showed in disaster response that pragmatism trumped party labels, but questions arose later about whether politics played a part in recovery aid. And when state's budget mess got rough, he blamed Democrats. Moderate stance could be a strength in a presidential election, although a weakness in striving for his party's nomination, because accommodation is not what core constituencies of either party want to see. But he's pleased some conservatives by taking on labor unions and resisting tax increases despite pressure to close budget gap.
Baggage: If you have to declare "I am not a bully," you've got a problem. Christie apologized in January for highway lane closures near the George Washington Bridge apparently ordered by his aides as political retribution against a Democratic mayor who did not endorse him for re-election. He denied knowledge of the machinations. The episode deepened questions about what Christie, or at least those around him, will do to win, and took a toll in his popularity. Investigations continue. Partial deflection: A nearly two-hour news conference packed with apologies, but it didn't put questions to rest.
Shadow campaign: RGA chairmanship allows him to grow his national profile with voters and party officials with regular travel and key appearances. Began building broad coalition of donors through his national fundraising tour in spring 2013. There were also "draft Christie" movements in Iowa and South Carolina in 2011, where activists continue to support him. Hired senior Romney media mind Russ Schriefer in late spring 2013. But the shadow of scandal still hangs over his shadow campaign.
Social media: More engaged in Twitter ("It was great to be able to visit with the owners of Rossi's Rent-A-Rama in Ortley today") than Facebook, where posts are by staff. No second-guessing himself in this postelection tweet: "if I walk away with 70 percent of my agenda, NJ is 70 percent better off than it would have been otherwise."