Economic development for New Jersey, and presidential politics, waited for Monday.
The likely Republican presidential contender, who recently launched a political action committee that serves as an early campaign operation, is visiting the United Kingdom on a three-day trade mission that conveniently doubles as a chance to shore up his foreign policy experience and build relationships with a key American ally.
Christie joined nearly 60,000 soccer fans as Arsenal thumped Aston Villa 5-0, on the eve of his business. He was not in a mood to talk politics.
Asked about his Friday night dinner with Mitt Romney, after the 2012 GOP nominee said he wouldn’t run in 2016, Christie said: “Good to see you all.”
Asked about the effect of Romney’s decision to skip the race, he said: “I just arrived here a few hours ago. I’m not processing a lot at the moment. I’ve processed some soccer. That was about it. Or football as they call it.”
Visiting Britain has become a rite of passage for would-be presidential nominees, but Christie’s trip to London is light on business. He’ll meet Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street and visit nearby Cambridge to highlight New Jersey’s pharmaceutical industry, but there are no major speeches planned and few chances for him to talk about foreign policy.
“Game was great,” he said after the Arsenal win, sporting a red-and-white-striped scarf in the home team’s signature colors. “We got five goals in one game – highly unusual – so it was good.”
Christie aides said he would reimburse Arsenal for seats provided by the team. As with his recent visits to Canada and Mexico, the trip is being paid for by a nonprofit group called Choose New Jersey, which pitches the state’s business climate. The group has yet to disclose how much it paid for those earlier trips.
Christie’s trip attracted some hype from the colorful British press. “Cameron to meet with `big mouth’ presidential hopeful Chris Christie during three-day visit,” declared the left-leaning Independent, noting Christie’s “sometimes brusque banter and blunt bonhomie.”
But most of those interviewed at the game drew a blank.
Offered soccer fan Robert Dent, 46: “He’s American, isn’t he? And the governor of – maybe New York? Big guy?”
Hearing him described as the Republican governor of New Jersey jogged Dent’s memory.
“Didn’t he get quite a lot of grief for being seen with Obama when the hurricane hit?” he asked. He was referring to Christie’s embrace of the Democratic president right before the 2012 elections – a moment that irked some conservatives.
Christie said he didn’t mind the relative anonymity.
“I don’t think I have to worry about that,” he said. “I’m not running for anything in the United Kingdom anytime soon.”