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Did Florida just quash a possible Chris Christie campaign?

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Jae C. Hong/AP/File

(Read caption) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has backed away from insisting he's not running for president. But early primaries mean he doesn't t have much time to pull a campaign together.

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It’s official: Florida has set its presidential primary for Jan. 31, 2012. This means that the four states allowed by the Republican National Committee to hold their primaries and caucuses before March 6 are all but certain to schedule their primaries for January, too – or even earlier.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner of New Hampshire, the traditional first primary state, put out a statement Friday saying he could not rule out scheduling his state’s contest for December.

So now, anyone thinking of jumping into the Republican nomination sweepstakes suddenly has at least a month less to pull a campaign together to compete in the all-important earliest contests, in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

Paging Chris Christie (and Sarah Palin). The governor of New Jersey has backed away ever so slightly from his “not a chance” assertions about running for president. And we still haven’t heard any final verdict from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who had said she would let us know by the end of September, though that turned into “end of September... ish.”

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