Chris Christie isn’t running for president: Who gains from his decision?

October 4, 2011

Chris Christie announced at a press conference in New Jersey Tuesday that he has decided not to run for president in 2012. As Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza reported:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won’t run for president in 2012, citing his desire to continue his work in the Garden State in a press conference Tuesday.

“Now is not my time” Christie said at a press conference in Trenton, New Jersey this afternoon. “I have a commitment to New Jersey that I simply will not abandon.”

Christie added that he “never really wanted” to reconsider his past refusals to run but that an overwhelming sentiment from ”people all over the country” forced him to rethink his plans.

He said his wife, Mary Pat, woke him up early one morning three weeks ago and told him that if he wanted to run, he should and that the family would be fine.

Christie was heavily courted to reconsider by large Republican donors as well as a handful of elected officials and party activists in key states. That recruitment process picked up steam following several mediocre debate performances by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, showings that raised doubts about his ability to unite the party and beat President Obama next fall.

His decision is the last major domino to fall in the Republican race, which has been defined by a series of rapid rises and falls (Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann being the best example) among conservative candidates and the courting of not-yet-candidates into the race.

For the remaining candidates in the 2012 GOP primary field, that news was probably received with relief. Mitt Romney certainly would not have cheered Christie’s entrance into the race. As Ezra Klein wrote:

First, Michele Bachmann knocked out Tim Pawlenty. Then, Rick Perry knocked out Michele Bachmann. Then, Rick Perry knocked out Rick Perry. Then, Paul Ryan decided against running. Then, so did Chris Christie. Has any candidate in recent history been as lucky as Mitt Romney?

Well, yes. In 2004, Blair Hull, the frontrunner in the Democratic primary for the open Senate seat in Illinois, saw his campaign collapse amid allegations that he abused his wife. Then, Jack Ryan, the Republican nominee for the seat, had to withdraw due to a sex scandal with his ex-wife, Jeri Ryan. Then, he was replaced by performance artist Alan Keyes. All of this cleared the way for Barack Obama to win the presidency.

Luck matters in American politics. And right now, Romney seems to have quite a lot of it on his side.

What effect will Christie’s decision have on the rest of the field? The Fix’s Chris Cillizza explained:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie‘s decision not to run for presidentalmost certainly means that the 2012 Republican presidential field is set, news that some donors and party activists may greet grimly.

“Dream dating is over,” said Republican consultant Mark McKinnon. “It’s time to love the one you’re with.”

That Christie took a pass on the race is not all that surprising since he had been resolute for months that he was not interested in running before a brief — and recent — re-consideration.

But, the clamor — particularly among the donor community if not among rank and file activists — for a Christie candidacy speaks to the ongoing discontent with the Republican field of candidates.

Since the start of the Republican race, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has been regarded as the frontrunner — if a somewhat weak one.

Conservatives — particularly those aligned with the tea party movement — have spent much of the year looking for an alternative to Romney, a nomadic journey that has led them to latch on to reality TV star Donald Trump, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and, most recently, businessman Herman Cain.

Each of those anti-Romneys have proven to be something less than advertised — with the possible exception of Trump who performed roughly equivalent to the lowest possible expectations that people had for him.

More from PostPolitics

Chris Christie’s bouts of doubt

Fact Checker: Did N.J. decline under Christie?

Opinion: Christie made the right call

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