WASHINGTON (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, two Republicans eyed for potential White House runs, have been tapped to lead the Republican Governors Association.
Jindal, who serves on the association's executive committee, will chair the group in 2013 under a plan that officials say has broad support from other Republican governors. Christie, the current vice chairman, will take over in 2014.
The move gives both up-and-comers prominent leadership roles in the Republican Party and access to a national network of conservative donors, laying the groundwork for possible presidential bids in 2016 if Mitt Romney were to lose in November.
It's also the clearest sign to date that Christie, who is up for re-election in 2013, will seek a second term.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the group's current chairman, floated the plan in an email to GOP governors last week, an association official said. Although the governors must formally approve the picks at their annual conference in November, there appears to be a consensus to move ahead, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been publicly announced.
An aide to Jindal, Timmy Teepell, said that Jindal had spoken with several of his fellow governors about the position. "He would be honored to serve if chosen, but right now, Gov. Jindal is focused on the upcoming elections and electing Mitt Romney," he said.
Traditionally, the vice chair one year goes on to serve as chair the next. To avoid having Christie serve as chair the same year he is up for re-election, the order is being changed. Under a proposal first reported Monday by CNN, Jindal will serve as Christie's vice chair after relinquishing the chairmanship in 2014.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, another Republican whose national profile is on the rise, will serve as Jindal's vice chair in 2013.
Christie mulled running for president in 2012 but opted against it and became one of Romney's most prominent supporters. Many in the party questioned whether he was biding his time for 2016, a buzz that grew louder when Christie was chosen to deliver the keynote at the Republican National Convention in August.
Yet despite frequent affirmations that he loves his current job, the popular governor has steadfastly refused to proclaim his intentions to seek another term until after the presidential election in November.
"There's no need for me to make any kind of decision until afterward," Christie said in August. "It's not something I'll even consider until after that."
Jindal, too, has had a meteoric rise within the Republican Party. The 41-year-old won re-election last year in a landslide with minimal opposition.
Taking a turn as the association's leader has in recent years been a prelude to seeking higher office. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, both served as chairman before pursuing a presidential bid.
Just two states — Virginia and New Jersey — will hold gubernatorial elections next year. But dozens of governorships are up for grabs in 2014, when Christie is slated to chair the group.
The Democratic Governors Association hasn't announced who will replace Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, the group's 2012 chair. Governors will elect O'Malley's replacement in December.
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