Washington (CNN) – With characteristic brio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie informed the world Tuesday that he will not seek the Republican presidential nomination.
"New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me," Christie said at a press conference in Trenton.
And now the Republicans who pined for the blunt-talking governor to enter the presidential race are stuck with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Though Perry has fallen behind Romney in the polls after a pair of shaky debate performances and questions about his conservative bona fides, high-level GOP donors and veteran party operatives who wanted Christie to run still regard Perry and Romney as the main contenders for the nomination.
In the hours after the New Jersey governor issued his final and definitive statement about the 2012 race, Romney's campaign worked feverishly to sign up the bundlers who were pressing Christie to get in.
"There is certainly an effort under way to reach out to them," said Austin Barbour, a member of Romney's finance team. "I think the majority of them will come on board because they see the polling in the key states and even the national polls."
Romney appeared to be making headway.
Two of the GOP moneymen who were urging Christie to run appear to be headed to Romney. A Romney campaign aide confirms to CNN that Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone has decided to become a financial supporter to the campaign. Meanwhile, billionaire supermarket magnate Jon Catsimatidis was also reportedly signing on with Team Romney before the close of business on Tuesday.
Campaigning in Florida, Romney had kind words for Christie.
"Competition is always a good thing and he would have been a very fine contender and competitor if he were in the race," Romney said.
With Christie choosing to remain on the sidelines, Romney ducked a fight with a potentially fierce opponent.
Both Romney and Christie would have done battle on the moderate, establishment-friendly side of the Republican primary, with Perry appealing more to the grassroots conservative wing of the party.
Yet even as Republicans in Washington and on Wall Street began taking sides Tuesday, polls continue to show that the voters around the country are far from decided.
Polls out Tuesday indicated that Christie would have siphoned support from both Romney and Perry if he ran.
Among Republican voters surveyed by Quinnipiac University, Christie and Romney tied at 17%, with businessman and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain at 12% and Perry at 10%.
Without Christie in the race, his rivals all gained: Romney led the pack with 22%, Cain followed at 17% and Perry took 14%.
Christie's numbers were lower in a Washington Post/ABC News survey also released Tuesday, but Romney and Perry both polled better without him in the race.
And waiting on the sidelines is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has to decide whether to join the race on Oct. 28, the filing date for the New Hampshire primary and the first hard deadline for any Republican considering a White House bid.
A source close to the Palins said Tuesday that they continue to view the race as "wide open," a characterization few Republicans would dispute.
The topsy-turvy GOP race has been more fluid than any in modern memory, and there are still three months of campaigning to be had before the Iowa caucuses.
Romney, the nominal frontrunner, has been stranded around 25% in nearly every poll taken this year and has yet to prove that he can grow his base of support.
Perry joined the race as a juggernaut in August but fell in national surveys after his opponents raised questions about his record on illegal immigration and his executive order mandating that middle school girls be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease.
Cain, a virtual unknown before the race began, has vaulted into the top tier of the GOP field after a charismatic and plain-spoken debate performance in Orlando last month.
Candidates like Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman have joined the 2012 race to great fanfare, only to stumble.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was once widely regarded as the establishment alternative to Romney, and he dropped out of the race in August.
In Iowa, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum may be climbing and Texas Rep. Ron Paul continues to poll in double digits.
Huntsman is slowly gaining traction in New Hampshire even before running a single television ad there, which could force Romney to look over his shoulder in a primary state he must win.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has also been on an upward trajectory after a string of impressive debate showings.
According to Republican strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos, Christie's decision not to run "means the field is probably settled, even though the voters aren't."
Romney must prove he can withstand attacks that are now certain to come his way, he said.
"Now Romney will be tested in a more forceful way than ever," said Castellanos, who advised Romney in 2008 but is not aligned with any campaign this time around. "He better strap on his helmet for the next debate."
Christie has a big mouth and likes to come across as a tough guy.,but beyond that, what does he have to offer that is any different than the rest of the Republican stooges running. Even in these difficult financial times Obama is still the best choice to guide the country out of this self made fiasco Congress should be dismissed. Put those jobs up on the block. Really, anyone can do better than this bunch of clowns we have running the country now.
The Republican race stands exactly where it has stood from the beginning – No credible candidates, NO leaders, No solutions, and scary extremism. This is the time for the PEOPLE to stand up and vote ALL Republicans out of office in 2012 so we can remove the obstructionists, restore our economy and create jobs with the President's plan. Obama 2012
Why is this a story? Nobody was on the edge of their seat for his announcement. It's been pretty clear for weeks now, from the horse's mouth, that he didn't have any intention of running.
Where does the race stand. At the same spot it's been the last 50 times he said he wouldn't run.
Where did these pols get such weird first names–Mitt, Newt, Barack?!! I wish the press would treat the candidates equally so voters can focus on the entire lot instead of Romney vs. Perry! I hardly know Mitt Romney.
It's Bob Dole time.
Romney and Perry are not winning straw polls anymore. Please quit lying in order to try and get one of these baboons elected.
Report the facts, Cain and Paul have more support than these loons so NO IT IS NOT BACK TO PERRY/ROMNEY
We want Cain. He is no unknown. He's very well known to top tier republicans. We have a chance to win with him. That would be a race!!!!!! He has more sense and gets it better than the rest.
Not a SINGLE mention to ron Paul?!!!!
I guess we are back to ignoring Ron Paul? Unbelievable.
Gov. Christie won't run. I suggest he start running. Daily.
Herman Cain is surging in the polls, but of course the liberal media don't want you to know that. It goes against their meme that Republicans are evil white men, the Tea Party is racist, etc
Sweara Paling will enter the race because her ego would allow nothing else (let alone her pocketbook). Her candidacy will wreak havoc in the Republican field. Among Tea Party activists she has a spellbinding quality although when she speaks, no one can remember anything significant that she may have said. She will tear the Tea Party crowd away from Romney and will cause them to be so disaffected that they will sit out the next election. They do not like Romneycare and as most of them are evangelicals, they will never trust his Mormanism. In contrast, President Obama will handily raise 1 $Billion in campaign funds, will amass hundreds of thousands of volunteers. He will remind the country that the GOP lost the right to govern when they made such a collosal mess of the economy when they last held the White house.
The state of the race is the same as it was before people started yammering about Christie. Lots of candidates and Republicans don't like any of 'em, just like 2008 when they had 13 to choose from and still complained loud and long. My guess is that Romney benefits most, to the extent that anyone does. With the Tea Party wing being the tail that wags the GOP dog, I doubt he will survive the primaries, and the nominee will be someone that independents and moderates of both parties just can't support. Or like 2008, Romney will survive and take the nomination by default, just like McCain did. Whether he can win remains to be seen.
Fat boy out!!
Don't count out black voters in open primary states voting for Cain, Libertarians voting for Paul and Johnson and moderates voting for Romney (even if he panders to the Tea Party). Catholics may even vote for Santorum, but I doubt it.
Lets also not count out women crossing over for Bachmann.
We cannot forget former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who is still in the race. His numbers may be small, but he is slowly climbing in the polls (not CNN polls, he's not liked around these parts) and is the man in the shadows who is gonna bounce big before anyone realized what has happened.
Peter Griffin will not be leaving Family Guy, thank God.
The race card stands at...
President Obama 2012 !
It's early but interesting.
Ron Paul is still standing strong with nowhere to go but up. Perry is falling backwards and Cain is just the flavor of the week.
Christie doesn't matter, we have to beat BHO in 2012 or we're done
Dude missed his chance...what are the odds he doesn't collapse with a heart attack in the next 8 years
Romney is the best hope to beat Obama.