The Chris Christie presidential non-campaign is still making news today, with this new report claiming that a small cadre of top GOP donors and activists is pushing him to run. But it still remains unlikely he’ll jump in. It’s just very late in the game, and Christie just isn’t a strong enough player to easily overcome that.
But the endless speculation about Christie, even though he’s repeatedly ruled out running, raises an important question: Why can’t Republicans accept their current field?
There are three things going on here. As Steve Benen says, this is a consequence of the GOP field’s weakness. But it’s a particular kind of weakness: There just wasn’t any heavyweight available this time around. No former vice president, no former nominee, and only one former vice presidential nominee — and a terribly flawed one at that. There weren’t even very many successful politicians who had served statewide from very large states, with Rick Perry and Jeb Bush the most notable names. Given all that, it was likely that most Republicans were going to be underwhelmed with the field early in the process.
The second thing going on here is that Republicans have taken to ruthlessly winnowing the field earlier in every cycle. The truth is that a field with Perry, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, and perhaps one or two others would look a lot more respectable — but of the plausible nominees, only Perry and Romney remain. Not only does that make the field look thin, but it also means that there are a fair number of disappointed Republicans out there who previously supported one of the winnowed candidates.
The third thing going on here is: Boredom. After all, the most recent event in the GOP primary that really mattered was Rick Perry’s final decision to get all the way in, and that was six weeks ago. The press is faced with another four or five months of writing over and over that the winner will either be Perry or Romney. Under those conditions, no wonder the press is eager to fan the flames of any rumors out there, just as the press eagerly jumped on the Donald Trump or Michele Bachmann surges over the spring and summer.
What all of this means is that dissatisfaction with the Republican field is an artifact of the process, not a hint of problems to come in the 2012 campaign. All of these early hiccups will be long forgotten by then. Despite all the worrying right now, once a nominee is chosen — whether it’s Perry or Romney — Rush Limbaugh and Fox News hosts and Republican politicians will unanimously tell everyone what a wonderful nominee he is. And there’s no reason to think that Republican voters won’t buy it.