"Now Is Not My Time"
With Chris Christie’s announcement, the Republicans continue their search for an alternative to Mitt Romney.
The volume of the entreaties is what made him reconsider. At his press conference he told the story of a Nebraska farmer who sent a Fed Ex to Christie’s children, telling them to let their father off the hook about missing games and not spending time with them if he ran. At one point, he said, in the middle of the night, his wife told him: "If you want to run, go for it. Don't worry about me and the kids."
If he'd decided to run, perhaps Christie could have overcome his soft poll numbers. But conversations with party activists suggest he would have gotten a frosty reception. He held moderate positions on such issues as immigration and civil unions. He would have had to defend these while simultaneously building a fundraising organization and political operation.
Plus, the instincts that made Christie attractive as a governor might have been hard to translate. Blunt talk may work in New Jersey, or in Texas, but as Perry’s campaign is proving, it doesn’t always translate well to the national stage. (Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana worried this issue might have doomed his candidacy.) Lamar Alexander, a governor who twice ran for president, has said the difference between campaigning statewide and campaigning nationally is the difference between "playing in your backyard versus playing in the NBA."
In addition to the many logistical and political hurdles to the Christie candidacy, there were conceptual issues. One of the chief Republican complaints against President Obama is that he lacked experience—but Christie has served a shorter amount of time as governor of New Jersey than Obama did as senator from Illinois before he ran for president. Another chief complaint against Obama is that he just mouths pretty words. When I talked to Republicans about why they like Christie, they almost always mentioned his style of speaking.
Of course, Sarah Palin still circles the field—but it's too late, especially with the Iowa caucuses now possibly 35 days earlier than originally scheduled. Besides, her poll numbers are abysmal, with 66 percent of Republicans saying they don’t want her to run, in a recent ABC/Washington Post poll. Any more flirtations or late candidacies run the risk of making the party look ridiculous and wasting more energy on what is essentially an intramural feud in a year when Republicans have of a very good chance of winning the presidency.
In the end, Christie’s decision shows prudence and restraint, although he did go on—his press conference lasted almost an hour and was so chatty it seemed he might dandle one of the members of the press on his knee. He whacked Obama for his lack of leadership, helping the eventual GOP nominee, and repeatedly he praised his own state, using the occasion of turning down a chance at presidential power as an opportunity to build his power base as governor. These are wise moves showing political and strategic savvy. Let the speculation commence: Christie 2016, anyone?