It’s no secret that Republican voters, donors and operatives are less than thrilled with th current lineup of Republican contenders. It’s also well known that because of that dissatisfaction, many donors are holding back, wishfully awaiting the arrival of a candidate whom they can enthusiastically support. Now comes word that some of the donors are taking matters into their own hands:
Some of Iowa’s top Republican campaign contributors, unhappy with their choices in the developing presidential field, are venturing to New Jersey in hopes they can persuade first-term Gov. Chris Christie to run. The entreaty is the latest sign of dissatisfaction within the GOP over the crop of candidates competing for the chance to run against President Barack Obama in 2012.
Bruce Rastetter, an Iowa energy company executive, and a half-dozen other prominent Iowa GOP donors sought the meeting with Christie, the governor’s chief political adviser, Mike DuHaime, told the Associated Press. The get-together is set for the governor’s mansion in Princeton, N.J., on May 31.
I asked two respected GOP insiders whether Christie would meet with this group if he really had no interest in 2012. One said, “I can’t think of another reason.” The other suggested that it would be “hard to turn them down [by refusing to meet], but it won’t change his mind.” In sum, we don’t know for sure what this means. However, the explanation offered by DuHaime, to be honest, didn’t sound like he was talking about someone who had decided definitively against a run. (“To the extent he cares about the party and the nominating process, knowing more people, like Bruce, that are influential in that process is a good thing,” DuHaime said. “This is simply part of getting to know other people who are going to be key players in the process.”) Surely, Christie would know that a meeting, disclosed to the Associated Press by his top political adviser, would create a buzz.
Christie has benefited from being a non-candidate so far. He didn’t have to get on the debate stage with Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum. He doesn’t have to spend time away from his day job. And he doesn’t have to opine on every issue of the day, as active candidates are expected to do. Meanwhile, he has maintained his standing as one of the most popular Republicans and remains involved in the day-to-day battles with Democrats, a sure-fire way of ingratiating himself with the base and strengthening his own credentials as a doer and not just a talker.
Ah, but he said he “wasn’t ready.” Not the easiest statement to play down, but neither is it a barrier to a change of heart. I’ve come to believe in myself. Others have convinced me that I have what it takes. I was simply trying to get the press off my back. Any of those lines would work. And truthfully? Can he look at that group in the debate last Thursday and say any of them is more capable than he?
Christie is in a unique position. He doesn’t need to be in the race to maintain his visibility. He doesn’t need to declare now to attract top campaign talent. He doesn’t need to worry about attracting donors. So he can wait. But not forever.