We dedicated our Monday Fix newspaper column — yses, we write for the real paper sometime too! — to an exploration of the pros and cons of a presidential bid by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
WHY HE SHOULD
1. Timing matters: As President Obama proved in 2008, timing is everything in politics. Christie’s tough-talking approach and pledge to speak hard truths to Garden State voters has turned him into a national hero among the tea party crowd. And, with the party establishment souring on Perry — big time — and still not sold on Romney, Christie could step into the race and immediately become its frontrunner. How often do you have that chance?
2. Money: There’s no question that there is certain number of major donors — primarily in the New York and New Jersey area — who are simply waiting for Christie to say “yes” to put an aggressive cash collection operation in place that would immediately make the New Jersey governor a force to be reckoned with on the fundraising front. There’s no other potential candidate — up to and including former Alaska governor Sarah Palin — who 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 onto 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, due to 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 up into statewide office.
WHY HE SHOULDN’T
1. Late start: Perry has spent nearly three decades straight in elected office and, to be frank, sometimes looks like a rookie on the campaign trail — or, more accurately, the debate stage. Christie had never held elected office prior to winning the governorship in 2009 and, while he has done a remarkable job of building his national reputation, he has never been tested under the sort of spotlight that would shine on him if he ran. The struggles of Perry, former Tennessee GOP Sen. Fred Thompson (in 2008) and retired Gen. Wes Clark (in 2004) make clear that running for president is an acquired skill that even most veteran politicians don’t possess innately.
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 $35-$50 million range. It’s not clear that Christie has that second gear or whether there are enough big bundlers — the people who can donate and get hundreds of their friends to do the same — left uncommitted for him to even try.
3. Heart: Listen closely to Christie’s denials over the past months — and there have been lots — and the common strain is that he doesn’t have his heart in a presidential race. (He joked at Rider that the only person who would be waking up with him at 5:30 in the morning on a -15 degree day in Des Moines was 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.