The odds might be better than you think.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie embodies everything that is right, and wrong, about New Jersey. He’s brash. He takes no prisoners. He’s a conservative in a state that practically invented Democrats. And he just might be rethinking whether or not to run for president.
For months, the race for the GOP nomination was more about who was out rather than who was in. A handful of popular governors with conservative (or conservative enough) records declined to run for president this year.
Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi was an early popular pick after his work running the GOP and his solid reaction to disasters in his state. Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana is an economic conservative’s wet dream, and he declined to run. Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who came close in 2008, declined to run. Even Sarah Palin, the former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate in 2008, has yet to declare for the race.
This left former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Texas Representative Ron Paul, and a handful of no-chance candidates to battle it out. Later, Texas Governor Rick Perry jumped into the race, leaving the GOP in a rough situation. Conservatives don’t care for Romney, although he could be their best bet to win in the general election. Conservatives love Rick Perry, but he seems to be a disaster as a candidate; he can’t debate, he looks tired all the time, and he’s kind of a moron.
No one in the party takes Ron Paul seriously enough to give him a chance to win (even as the other candidates swipe his ideas). Meanwhile, no-chance candidates like Michele Bachmann (Iowa) and Herman Cain (Florida) keep winning straw polls of GOP voters.
The Democrats faced a similar dilemma in 1992. President George Bush (the smart one) looked positively unbeatable after his successful 1991 Gulf War. His approval ratings hit 91 per cent, and re-election seemed like a no-brainer. Nearly every major potential candidate that year declined to run.
Instead of heavyweights like New York Governor Mario Cuomo, the Democrats had to choose among has-beens (Eugene McCarthy) and boring U.S. Senators (Bob Kerrey and Tom Harkin), as well as former Senator Paul Tsongas. Similar to today’s GOP field, the 1992 Democratic team was lackluster.
Then, in October 1991, young Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton entered the race. He drew enthusiasm and projected a moderate voice. He was able to run on the poor economy and defeated Bush in a three-way race. (Independent Ross Perot garned a significant portion of the vote).
Well, we’re less than a week from October 2011. Like Clinton, who ran as both a liberal and a moderate, Christie can plausibly run as both a conservative and a moderate. He can speak credibly on issues that are important to more conservative Democrats, and would certainly hold on to the typical Republican coalition. In short, if he runs, he could easily win. The question is, will he run?
Some who have known the governor for decades suggest that, despite remarks that he would not run, Christie is reconsidering. This is especially in light of Rick perry’s impending implosion and the lack of enthusiasm for either Mitt Romney or potential nominee Sarah Palin. Former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean said “I think the odds are a lot better now than they were a couple weeks ago,” he said to the National Review.
If Christie runs, he would have some disadvantages, in that Romney is already the “northeastern” candidate. However, he is not a fresh face and many Republicans only like him because he can seemingly win. Christie would simultaneously appeal to fiscal conservatives of the northeast AND tea party conservatives of the heartland and south. His biggest obstacle would seem to be Rick Perry.
If Perry collapses as badly as it seems he is about to, there will be a small opening for another candidate to jump in. Will it be Christie? I certainly hope so. His candor and combative style would bring flair to a decidedly tame 2012 race. He’d also have a real chance to do anything from lose all 50 states to completely wipe the floor with Obama. It would certainly be a race worth watching.
— John Thorpe
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