Gingrich: 'No Natural Frontrunner' in GOP Right Now

By Susan Jones | January 22, 2014 | 6:48am EST

In this Jan. 21, 2014, photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stands with his wife Mary Pat at his swearing-in for a second term in Trenton, N.J.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

( - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the object of relentless criticism and conjecture from the Democrat Party and MSNBC, could be "one of the five or six major contenders" for the Republican presidential nomination, if he can "work his way back," former House Speaker and Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich said on Tuesday.

"I don't think that Christie is particularly the frontrunner. I don't think there is a frontrunner," Gingrich said on CNN. "But what this (bridge scandal) has done is put him into the pack, you know, and I think it's taken some of the charm off, and some of the Time magazine cover-effect off.

"He's got to work his way back. If there is no major problem, he will work his way back, and he'll be one of the five or six major contenders. Nobody is going to be more than that, because there's no natural frontrunner in the party right now."

Gingrich said it's still early days, and one of two things will happen:

"Either it's going to get a lot worse for him, in which case he's out of the race, or it's just going to have been noise." He also noted that "Republicans deeply dislike the media, and so having the media attack Chris Christie actually probably strengthens him among Republicans."

Christie, in his inaugural address on a snowy Tuesday, thanked the people of New Jersey for once again giving him the "honor" and opportunity to serve.

Over the last four years, New Jersey has set the tone for the entire nation, he said, using adjectives that could describe himself: "A tough New Jersey. A resilient New Jersey. A proud New Jersey."

As for the next four years, Christie talked about shared sacrifice and taking on "what is politically unpopular."

"I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive government that penalizes success," he said. "They want an equal chance at the starting, not a government-guaranteed result."

He dismissed the power of "almighty government" to fix problems, and he suggested that New Jersey should be different from its neighbors by putting "more money in the pockets of our middle class by not taking it out of their pockets in the first place."

He said anyone who preferes "economic growth and oppportunity to government redistribution and higher taxes" will be welcome in New Jersey.

Christie talked about every person having value and the ability to be happy: "They will not believe that if all they hear is that life is unfair and that only government can fix that unfairness. They must first believe that self-worth comes from inside each of us. Government cannot solve every one of these problems - government can only be one part of that solution."

He promised to make education for every New Jersey child a priority: "No matter what adult we have to offend, no matter where you came from, no matter what sacred cow we must slay, no matter how much we have to change the conventional thinking, we will not stand for the achievement gap which exists between our best and least educated children."

He called for an end to the "failed war on drugs," saying that New Jersey "will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands that every life has value and no life is disposable."

Christie said the state "cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C. -- the attitude that says, 'I am always right and you are always wrong. The attitude that puts everyone into a box they are not permitted to leave. The attitude that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements. The belief that compromise is a dirty word.

"As we saw in December regarding the DREAM Act, we can put the future of our state ahead of the partisans who would rather demonize than compromise. As your Governor, I will always be willing to listen, as long as that listening ends in decisive action for the people counting on us."

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