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Why Chris Christie should — and shouldn’t — run for president

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s recent stumbles — his rambling attempt at last week’s GOP presidential debate to attack former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping is a prime example — have renewed speculation that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie might rethink his “no go” decision on the 2012 race.

Even as some Republican donors make the case — again — that this is Christie’s moment, his closest advisers insist that nothing has changed, pointing to comments he made last week at New Jersey’s Rider University in which he said he still isn’t interested.

Of course, at that same event, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, himself the subject of much 2012 speculation, said he is “not taking ‘no.’ . . . I’m taking ‘not yet’ ” in regard to Christie’s presidential aspirations.

Although we think Christie means what he says about the race, we also couldn’t resist laying out three reasons why he should run and three reasons why he shouldn’t. (We are our own devil’s advocate.)

Why he should

1. Timing matters. As Barack Obama proved in 2008, timing is everything in politics. Christie’s tough-talking approach and his pledge to speak hard truths to Garden State voters have turned him into a national hero among the tea party crowd. And, with the GOP establishment souring on Perry — big-time — and still not sold on Romney, Christie could immediately become the front-runner. How often does someone have that chance?

2. Money. There’s no question that certain major donors — primarily in the New York and New Jersey area — are simply waiting for Christie to say “yes” to put an aggressive cash collection in place that would immediately make the New Jersey governor a force to be reckoned with on the fundraising front. No other potential candidate — including former Alaska governor Sarah Palin — could put together so much money so quickly.

3. 2013 looms: If Christie takes a pass on the presidential race, there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to hold on to the governorship when he’s up for a second term in 2013. New Jersey is no Republican redoubt, and Christie won in 2009 in large part because of the public’s distaste for then-Gov. Jon Corzine (D). Plus, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, widely touted as a national Democratic star, is looking to move into a statewide office.

Why he shouldn’t

1. Late start. Perry has spent nearly three decades in elected office and sometimes looks like a rookie on the campaign trail — or, more accurately, the debate stage. Christie had never held elected office before winning the governorship in 2009 and, although he has done a remarkable job of building his national reputation, has never been tested under the sort of spotlight that would shine on him if he ran. The struggles of Perry, former senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) in 2008 and retired Gen. Wesley Clark in 2004 make clear that running for president requires skill that even most longtime politicians don’t possess.

2. Money. Yes, Christie could put together an impressive first month — or even first quarter — of fundraising. But the true giants of cash collection are those with staying power, the candidates who are able to get beyond the first $10 million (or so) and into the range of $35 million to $50 million. It’s not clear that Christie has that second gear or whether there are enough uncommitted big bundlers — the people who can donate and get hundreds of their friends to do the same — left for him to even try.

3. Heart. Listen closely to Christie’s denials over the past months — and there have been many — and the common strain is that his heart isn’t in a presidential race. (He joked at Rider that the only person who would be waking up with him at 5:30 a.m. on a 15-below-zero day in Des Moines would be his wife, not all the people asking him to run.) Winning a presidential primary is, at root, a grind — and if a candidate isn’t 100 percent on board, it simply won’t work. Christie seems to understand what it takes to be president (or at least his party’s nominee) and decided he doesn’t have it right now. He should listen to his heart and stay out.

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