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Chris Christie follows Bridgegate with presidential run

Chris Christie has launched his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in the US. The New Jersey governor says he’s ready to "lead our country and to change the world."

Chris Christie launched his 2016 presidential run on Tuesday, vowing to bridge the partisan divide in Washington with blunt talk and a willingness to tackle tough issues. That makes the New Jersey governor the 14th Republican to enter the race for the party's nomination, with no clear front-runner so far.

The 52-year-old Christie said both Republicans and Democrats, the only two nationally competitive parties in the United States, "have failed our country" and called for more compromise in politics. "America is tired of hand-wringing and indecisiveness and weakness in the Oval Office," he added.

Christie made his announcement in the gymnasium of his old high school, playing up, as he often does, his working-class roots. It seemed a calculated move against

Republican frontrunner Jeb Bush

, whose brother George W. moved out of the White House in 2009 and father, George H.W. lived there from 1981 to '93, serving eight years as vice president to Ronald Reagan and another four as chief executive himself.

Christie has much more than Bush to worry about: Since

the first announcements in spring

, the Republican field has grown to 14 candidates. Though Christie has joined his party colleagues

in their near-unanimous opposition

to a recent Supreme Court ruling enshrining marriage equality, current polls place the two-term governor below even

the billionaire Donald Trump

, who has never held elected office.

Christie won his second term by a landslide in 2013 and, a year later, led the Republican Governors Association through midterm elections in which the party nicked several state-executive posts from Democrats and only lost two of the 22 offices it defended. However, his approval ratings in New Jersey have since reached record lows at home. And Republicans view him as suspicious, partly because he has worked with Democrats in the New Jersey legislature and also in resentment of his hugging Barack Obama after

Superstorm Sandy

in the final days of the 2012 presidential race.

'Bridgegate'

Christie sought endorsements from several New Jersey Democrats to boost his bipartisan credibility in 2013. Two close aides have been indicted for allegedly closing New York-bound lanes on the George Washington Bridge - the busiest in the nation - to jam up traffic in the city of Fort Lee and get back its Democratic mayor for refusing to endorse him.

Another aide has pleaded guilty in the act of political retribution - and says Christie knew all about it. With his image badly damaged by the "Bridgegate" lane-closure scandal, his standing in national polls in the Republican race has dipped to the low single digits.

Aides emphasize Christie's personality, wit and unvarnished speech. Critics still view him as merely a bully.

"I mean what I say and I say what I mean, and that's what America needs right now," Christie said on Tuesday. "Truth and hard decisions today will lead to growth and opportunity tomorrow." He added: "You're going to get what I think whether you like it or not."

Christie planned to head to the early-voting state of New Hampshire on Tuesday.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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