Gov. Chris Christie enjoyed an early start to the July 4 weekend with a walk along the boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach Thursday afternoon, where his future political ambitions were never far from people's minds.
Christie spent more than an hour shaking hands, high-fiving little kids and posing for selfies at the popular Jersey Shore beach destination to kick off the summer season.
One of Christie's most defining moments stemmed from a heated boardwalk argument in Seaside Heights that turned into a YouTube sensation in 2012.
But the reception Thursday was far more positive, with many of those he met along the way urging Christie, dressed casually in khakis and a red Rutgers polo shirt, to make a run for president in 2016.
"2016 please!" one woman pleaded. "2016, baby," yelled another.
"I'm thinking about it," Christie responded after Point Pleasant's Joe Spiekermann, 65, told the Republican governor, "you'd better be our next president."
"We need him now more than ever," said Spiekermann, who was at the beach with his 6-year-old grandson. "We need a man like this to run our country."
Carmine Del Sordi, 44, an author visiting from San Francisco, told Christie he needed to shake things up in Washington.
"We need a strong Republican in the White House. We're long overdue," Del Sordi said.
Christie has said that he'll decide next year about a run. But Gabe Sganga, 62, from Brick, said he doesn't want to wait that long.
"Don't think about it anymore. Just do it," he urged the governor, whose national prospects have been tarnished by the George Washington Bridge scandal and other investigations.
Christie began the day at a ceremonial reopening of the Ocean Grove boardwalk, which was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy.
He said the reconstruction represented another stage of the state's recovery from the storm, but that more work remained to be done.