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Christie throws his hat in the ring for RNC chair

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expressing serious interest in the job of Republican National Committee chairman — and he’s getting an audience to make his case.

Christie told senior members of Donald Trump’s presidential transition team on Thursday morning that he is interested in the post, according to three sources familiar with the talks. One person said the governor had embarked on an aggressive, “full-court press” in hopes of getting the chairmanship.

Christie began seriously considering the job over the last week and has concluded that he would be a solid fit, several of his aides said.

The governor was an early supporter of Trump after dropping out of the presidential race in February, but has had a rocky relationship with his transition team as of late. Christie had been overseeing the transition but was booted from the post last month in favor of Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Some Trump aides believe Christie did a poor job overseeing the process; others said he clashed with Jared Kushner, Trump’s influential son-in-law.

As Christie’s prospects for a job in the Trump administration have dimmed in recent weeks, he has downplayed interest in a position, saying he intends to serve out the remainder of his term as governor, which expires in January 2018.

The governor huddled with the president-elect last month in New Jersey, where they discussed several possible still-vacant cabinet posts, including secretary of homeland security, according to two people briefed on the meeting. Christie, however, has told his aides he isn’t interested in the job.

Spokespeople for Trump and Christie didn’t respond to requests for comment. Some Christie aides, however, believe that their boss, who formerly chaired the Republican Governors Association and has relationships with many of the party’s donors, would make a natural RNC chair.

Christie also has a gift for political combat, a skill needed for the chairmanship. During a GOP primary debate this year, he delivered a scorching attack on Marco Rubio that left the Florida senator badly damaged.

While the governor is no longer playing a role in the transition, he has kept in touch with Trump and his aides. Among other things, he has offered advice on political staffing, recommending that Bill Stepien, a Christie-turned-Trump aide, be tapped for the job of White House political director.

One senior Trump aide on Thursday said that Christie’s background as a former RGA chair ensured that he would be considered for the RNC post.

Reince Priebus, the current RNC chair, is stepping down to take a job as Trump’s chief of staff. Jockeying for the chairmanship has intensified in recent days as the president-elect begins to consider how to fill out his political operation.

Yet there isn’t agreement on who should get the post. Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, and Rebekah Mercer, one of his top donors, have been encouraging consideration of Mercedes Schlapp, a former George W. Bush administration official who has close ties to the conservative movement. Meanwhile Priebus, who will have a big say over who gets picked, is seen as favoring someone from the party establishment, such as Michigan GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, who is Mitt Romney’s niece. Unlike Schlapp, McDaniel is a sitting RNC member.

Other candidates frequently mentioned include RNC official Matt Pinnell and David Urban, a prominent Washington lobbyist who helped to oversee Trump’s successful campaign in Pennsylvania. Urban has spoken with Trump about the chairmanship, according to one person briefed on the talks.

Pence, meanwhile, has been supportive of Nick Ayers, a Georgia-based operative who advised Pence during the presidential campaign. Ayers, a former RGA executive director, is currently helping the transition. During internal conversations, the vice president-elect has told aides that Ayers would be a solid pick.

Once Trump makes his choice, that person must get final approval from the 168 members who comprise the national committee. The vote is expected to take place in January, when the RNC meets for its annual winter meeting.

Whether Christie gets the nod may depend on whether he is able to win over Kushner, who, along with the Trump campaign’s digital director Brad Parscale, is playing a central role in devising what the president-elect’s political operation looks like going forward. The Trump son-in-law has long been critical of the governor, blocking him from getting the vice presidential nod and playing an instrumental role in getting him removed from the transition.

Kushner, along with other Trump aides, believed Christie had overseen a messy, chaotic transition process, and blamed him for loading up the transition team with lobbyists – a departure from the president-elect’s promise to drain the Washington swamp.

Yet Kushner, who was deeply concerned about the Bridgegate fallout surrounding the governor, may see the RNC chairmanship as an ideal spot for Christie. Unlike a cabinet position, the post doesn’t require congressional confirmation.

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