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Monday, May 09, 2011

The Pros and Cons of a Chris Christie Run in 2012

18 months to go! Thus far, New Jersey governor Chris Christie hasn't expressed any interest in running in 2012. But "the bug" is a powerful thing once caught. Better pols have broken, lustily, when faced with the possibility of running to become the biggest cat in the jungle.

And President Obama is not as strong politically as he looks. Why else would he feel the need to start a record-busting $1 billion campaign so aggressively? Republicans, with their amber waves of B-Listers (Averted Gaze), fail to take advantage of that fact. It may be that the President gets himself re-elected based simply on the fact that the GOP is sending their minor leaguers to the majors only to get their clocks cleaned by a political Natural (see: Clinton-Dole, '96). Christie must be considering this.

Obama's muscular re-election effort, which officially began a few weeks ago, as well as the recent decimation of Osama bin Laden -- and we cannot fail to mention the attendant victory lap right in Christie's backyard -- cover over the central political fact that the unemployment rate rose to 9.0 percent in April, up 0.2 percentage points over the month previous. Hello? The economy is how the President will be judged by the electorate in 2012; the economy is what the President is profoundly vulnerable on at present. And as Bill Clinton used to say, it's the economy, stupid.

Here, forthwith are the pros and cons working in favor or against a Christie candidacy in 2012:


New Jersey is Critical. There are few instances in which being from Jersey is an advantage (kidding!). Being from New Jersey is a definite political advantage in a Presidential election, particularly if you are a Republican. If Christie is the nominee, then the President either has to battle the Governor tooth-and-nail in his home state, or figure out another complicated campaign mathematics to get to the necessary electoral college votes. The Democrats need New Jersey like Bruce need the E Street Band. If Christie is the nominee he automatically puts the state in jeopardy for the Cemocrats, setting off all sorts of alarms for the President just by virtue of his being the nominee. This is the sort of thing that makes republicans salivate at lunch. This, and the permanent elimination of the capital gains tax.

Influential Iowa donors like him. The Iowa caucuses mark the traditional formal start of the delegate selection process for the 2012 Presidential campaign. Governor Christie has agreed to meet a dozen or so influential donors at the end of May who are courting him from Iowa. The fact that these donors, at this late date in the process -- and even later come Memorial Day -- are trying to romance Christie (and try to get that image out of your mind now) is quite interesting.

Bundlers are holding their cards close to their chest. The "bundlers" -- big money donors who made Bush, 43 and  John McCain's campaigns -- are adopting a wait-and-see attitude at this late date. The fact that rainmakers from the Republican party -- a very vertical, top-down, it's-your-turn kind of party -- have not fallen lock-step behind Mitt Romney, or even Sarah Palin speaks volumes. Palin and Romney should, by rights, be the Republican frontrunners going into the campaign by the logic of previous elections, raising big money hand over fist by now. They are not, ergo: the field is still wide open for a spoiler.

Christie is already a Player. Christie is already going to be a player in 2012, whether he likes it or not. From Politico:
Christie's influence could be a major influence in the GOP nomination process. Already probable candidates Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have met with him hoping to win his support. Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will sit down with him in the coming days.
'I am going to continue to play a role as a leader in our party and I think appropriately so,' Christie said in the radio interview. 'I am happy to play that role if they think I can play an important part in a presidential campaign to help them and help us to elect a good Republican to replace President Obama in 2012 and clearly that is my goal to make sure we have a change in 2012."

It is only logical -- as he is an elected official, presumably, as a Republican, interested in vocational advancement -- that he would be interested in not just being a behind-the-scenes player in the unfolding drama.


He doesn't want to run. Shouldn't we take him at his word? Perhaps the strongest "Con" working against any potential Christie candidacy is the plain fact that the Governor has said -- repeatedly -- that he doesn't want to run. He doesn't have the fire in the belly, he has said, in key states. Any convincing of Chris Christie works against his natural inclination, paving the way for possibly a lackluster campaign of epic proportions a la Fred Thompson, who was coaxed into running and afterwards fizzled like a bad firecracker.

Inexperience. Christie has been Governor of New Jersey for only 16 months, which might explain why more buzz surrounds a potential Christie in 2016 candidacy. He is running as a Republican, and the presumptive pseudo-front-runner Romney has been dining on the argument that even with two years of being President, Obama is inexperienced. Further, from the arch-conservative rag Human Events, "Some might argue the current occupant of the White House had little experience before embarking on his 2008 campaign, and that's true. But do we want to copy that model? Look  where Obama's inexperience has led us and ask yourself if you want to go down that road." If the central -- and pathetic -- Republican narrative against the incumbent President in 2012 will be that Obama is somehow "inexperienced (Averted Gaze)," then Chris Christie is profoundly incapable of delivering that message.

The Governor needs to reduce. There is no other way to put it politely -- Christie's weight will not play well on the national stage. Christie's standing up to the weaselly Jim Corzine worked well to his advantage on the Jersey Shore, where toughness and candor and a healthy appetite is appreciated. They love life! But in a head-to-head debate against the President it will look like a lack of personal discipline. And that, in a time of fiscal austerity, works terribly against "no drama Obama," a man renowned for his discipline.

It is hard to imagine Christie running. Still, there is a felt-need among the party's Establishment for someone else, someone strong. This blogger thinks that it is not inconceivable that Jeb Bush might enter the race as a dark horse. Florida, we cannot fail to note, is as critical to the President's dream of a second term, as New Jersey. Further, Bush 43's rejection -- however polite -- of the current President's invitation to stand side-by-side at Ground Zero, was -- how does one say this? -- curious.

Just saying.

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