Gov. Chris Christie gave the first glimpse of what he’d do if Americans elected him to the White House while speaking to New Hampshire Republicans in the presidential battleground state tonight.
“Within the first 100 days, if I were to run for president and be elected, we would change this tax system in this country so that people and companies aren’t leaving the country anymore,” Christie said during a brief question and answer session with audience members at the Concord and Merrimack County GOP Annual Lincoln Reagan Day Dinner.
“Secondly, we would pass a national energy policy, and one that takes full advantage of all of the resources that we have available to us to help grow our economy and make the world a more peaceful and stable place,” he said. “And the third thing is … is to reestablish American leadership around the world.”
Really, that’s it? I mean, isn’t that what every single GOP candidate is planning on doing? I can’t imagine a single GOP candidate, maybe with the exception of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who would say, “You know, I don’t think we should be leading from the front.”
The platitudinous declarations, devoid of interesting specifics or explanation for why Christie is uniquely capable of bringing those things about, exemplify the problem with a Christie campaign: There’s no real reason for him to run. There are more accomplished governors (e.g. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker) and former governors (e.g. Texas’s Rick Perry and Florida’s Jeb Bush). There are people who have been more astute, specific and accomplished on foreign policy (e.g. Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio). There are people who more sincerely embody the blue-collar ethos, with no addiction to luxury travel (e.g. Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich). There are hopefuls who appeal to moderates, but unlike Christie, also shine with the base (e.g. Walker, Kasich). There are candidates who are more disciplined, more professional and more reassuring to the big donors (e.g. Bush). And there are candidates who have fleshed out a vision with much more specificity and verve (e.g. Rubio, Bush and other reform-minded Republicans). And surely there are candidates more popular back home (e.g. Walker, Kasich), as opposed to Christie, who is languishing in New Jersey with a 37 percent approval rating.
It is hard to shake the sense that Christie is running for president because he wants to be president, not because he is uniquely suited or has some great insight into the problems of the day. To the contrary, we have no idea what his approach to fighting the Islamic State might be or what his immigration views are. In that respect, he has come to resemble Hillary Clinton but without the inevitability. He has gotten very far on his larger-than-life personality and his willingness to take on the teachers union, the Democratic legislature and even Congress (when it delayed giving New Jersey its hurricane funds). But you can’t run for president with just that — at least not in a field as deep and interesting as the 2016 one. Had Christie run in 2012 in a field with flaky candidates and Mitt Romney, who had Romneycare to weigh him down and did not inspire the confidence of the base, he might have been able to take the party by storm. (Granted, he might not have been prepared, especially on foreign policy, but he does not appear to have spent much time since then getting up to speed.)
If Christie really wants to run, he should sit down, figure out what he thinks on a range of issues, figure out why he is particularly able to bring the party together to solve the country’s problems. And if he gets stumped, don’t run. Work on solving New Jersey’s considerable problems, become a sought-after endorsement and burnish his credentials for a Cabinet spot or future run. Right now Christie is not doing himself or his party any favors.