Christie's post-reelection fork in the road: Centrist or conservative?

Myriad factors could shape the manner in which Christie might mount a bid for the GOP nomination. Christie might find ample space to run as an electable centrist if a variety of hard-charging conservatives or Tea Party types enter the race. And he could just as easily skip or participate lightly in Iowa and South Carolina – both early nominating contests dominated by conservatives.

Such a strategy could enable Christie to run a campaign more consistent with the persona he’s cultivated during his first term as governor.

“Mostly, he’s willing to work with people. And that’s the problem with Washington: there are too many Republicans and too many Democrats who don’t want to be seen with anybody else on the other side,” said Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committee member from Mississippi. “I’m a member of the club who thinks that somebody who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is your ally, not a 20 percent traitor.”

Christie also has a chance – like many other Republican governors – to distance himself from congressional Republicans’ deteriorating popularity come 2016.