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Former governors debate whether Christie's style will play outside of N.J.

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Gov. Chris Christie's brash style is nothing new to the voters of New Jersey and arguably a factor in winning reelection earlier this month by a landslide.

But with all the talk swirling about Christie's ambitions for a run at the presidency, former Gov. Jim Florio wonders if the rest of the country is ready to embrace a President Christie.

"It's going to be very interesting to see how he does that," Florio said about how Christie might tackle the electorate in places such as Iowa and elsewhere.

Florio joined former governors Brendan Byrne, Jim McGreevey, Donald DiFrancesco and John Bennett Wednesday on a panel at the New Jersey State League of Municipalities in Atlantic City.

Bennett said he was less concerned about Christie's style playing well in middle America because he believes people will be responsive to someone who "tells it like it is." What also helps, Bennett added, is that Christie will soon benefit from the increased national exposure of serving as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

"I think his style will go well anywhere," Bennett said.

Pointing to the recent federal shutdown as an example of how he thinks the "party of Lincoln" has gone astray, McGreevey said it's possible that a candidate such as Christie could provide some timely leadership for national Republicans.

Fielding a tongue-in-cheek question from Bennett as to whether he thought Christie would be the one to lead Republicans "out of the wilderness," McGreevy jokingly quipped, "He's going to lead your confused, bewildered party."

Only "time will tell" what Christie's national appeal will be, DiFrancesco said. But at least for now, Christie isn't longing for buzz, he said.

"He's certainly the most popular politician in the country today," DiFrancesco said.

As far as Byrne is concerned, the Republican nomination is currently Christie's to lose.

"I like his chances," Byrne said. "I think that as of now, he's the frontrunner but a lot of things can happen."

As to what Christie should not do in a potential presidential run, several of the governors said Christie should be cautious about placing the Garden State in his rearview mirror too soon.

"We don't want him to forget about New Jersey," DiFrancesco said.

Florio added that Christie should avoid succumbing to the pressures of the far-right in a national campaign.

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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