Both early Christie supporters and uncommitted donors and strategists who are open to supporting him said the governor must now begin moving on three fronts:

1. Determine which early-voting states hold the key for him to get ahead of Bush. One argument is that it may make more sense for Christie to focus on New Hampshire and Nevada rather than invest too much in Iowa, where either Christie or Bush would face a tough road to the top against more conservative candidates. The counter-argument is that it’s too soon to cede the top center-right spot in Iowa to Bush, who hasn’t run for office in years, and that Christie’s close connections to Governor Terry Branstad there will serve him well even if Branstad doesn’t choose sides.

2. Focus on governing successes in New Jersey. After all, Christie will be running on his record, and he must show voters that the job to which he was elected is his priority.

3. Acknowledge his past temperamental shortcomings and rebrand himself as a straight-talker who understands the value of deliberation and restraint.