President Obama is beatable. Now. The President’s numbers are at an all-time low, ranging from 39 to 47 percent approval. He’s upside down with a year to go and an economy that’s proved to be as stubborn as Camden Democrats trying to keep their guy on the ballot. Other GOP luminaries are on the sidelines so for Christie, this likely is a once in a lifetime shot. He can win, which based on the disarray that’s overtaken the Republican field, is not something any of the others can say with a straight face, at least not right now.
When the GOP crowed that it had been preparing for the latest round of legislative redistricting for more than a year, the party fully expected to come out on top, handing control of at least one house to the governor and easing his last two years in office considerably. But best laid plans and all that. When Alan Rosenthal cast his lot with the Democratic map, it all but assured the left control of the Legislature for at least the remainder of Christie’s first term and possibly for all of his second should he win one. With both houses in enemy hands, the governor’s agenda will no doubt suffer, giving him good reason to jump ship and try his hand on the national scene.
Four years is an eternity
While Christie has ruled out running in the current cycle, he has left open the door to a possible 2016 run. But in politics today’s darling is tomorrow’s old maid. There are any number of things that can happen that would derail a Christie 2016 bid, not the least of which would be a GOP win in 2012. But even should Obama win – a prospect the GOP would view as a disaster – in those intervening four years, Christie would need to survive re-election and continue to batter Democrats while remaining unscathed in the process. Can he do it? Sure. Is it likely?
Dollars and sense
There are millions out there poised to pour in the second Christie gives the word that he’s in. Major fundraisers and bundlers, unhappy with the current field, have hung on tight to their cash and their magic money lists in hopes the big man will come around. If and when he does, look for the governor to sit Daffy Duck like atop a mountain of treasure waiting to be spent.
Quite simply, Christie is good. How good?
Several months ago, Christie faced one of the few bumps in his otherwise smooth first 18 months in office. Ally Joe DiVincenzo was just outed by PolitickerNJ for retiring from his position as Essex County Executive and continuing both to serve in the role and collect a pension. PolitickerNJ had just run another piece on Lou Goetting, a member of the governor’s inner circle who collected both a pension and a salary from the state, and the Star Ledger had just run a front-page piece on legislators taking Christie to task for his tepid response to Joe D. A reporter asked the governor to explain why it was OK for Goetting to bring in nearly $200,000 from the state, but not OK for others in the system to double dip and hold dual offices.
Christie grabbed the question and ran. In the course of his two-minute answer he backed Goetting unquestionably, calling him the MVP of the administration’s budget team, took a lighthearted jab at Statehouse Press Corp. Dean Michael Aron’s age, chided the Star Ledger for going easy on Democrats even while it lambasted him, and uttered the now infamous “take out the bat” rejoinder to state Sen. Loretta Weinberg’s criticisms. When he was done, he spotted Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in the room and announced it was the LG’s birthday, leading members of the press corps in a round of “Happy Birthday” before exiting the press conference. Members of the press (myself included) walked out amazed at what we’d just seen.
Oh yeah. Did you see Rick Perry’s last debate performance?
Christie also brings something to the field that is so far absent and that’s gravitas with a side of everyman appeal. Christie’s brand of conservatism can play in the Northeast, where the in-your-face religion wielded by Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann scares some moderates.
Five Reasons You’ll See Christie at the Tick Tock Diner Next Year
Running for president is all consuming. It’s a year- long cavity search as voters and the media try to figure out if he has what it takes to run the country. Old baggage, long since stored in the proverbial attic, is spiffed up to look new and new baggage is trotted out to the showroom floor on a regular basis. Christie is fast on his feet and rarely makes a glaring misstep, but it’s unlikely reporters on the presidential trail will settle for “get a life” as a response to their questions.
Christie has shown no signs that he has health issues, but earlier this year he caused a ripple in the national press when he was taken to the hospital with an asthma attack, bypassing a scheduled press conference. He spent the day in the hospital, emerging early in the evening to say he was fine. Do that once on the campaign trail and supporters will empathize. Do it twice and they’ll worry they’re about to elect a time bomb. Christie has spent 10 years in high-profile, high-stress jobs and as much as it’s Un-PC to acknowledge his weight, it’s hard to overlook the toll a campaign – not to mention at least four years in the most intense job in the nation should he win – will take.
Christie has delivered the long-suffering GOP from purgatory during his almost two years in office. The party has become relevant again after nearly a decade and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Christie now sets the tone in Trenton. Should he run for president, at the very least Guadagno would be his stand-in anytime he’s out campaigning. At worst, the governor would resign his seat to focus full time on the campaign, leaving Guadagno at the helm of not just the state, but the party. For all her strengths – and let’s be honest, it’s tough to tell what they are because she hasn’t exactly been on display for the past two years – Guadagno is no Christie. Leaving now would threaten Republicans with banishment and who knows if there is another Christie waiting in the wings.
During his appearance last week with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Christie painted a bleak picture of the campaign trail, describing a frigid morning in Iowa as he heads off to shake hands at a meat packing plant – hardly the talk of a man champing at the bit to hit the road. He went on to say that running for the presidency is not only something you have to want to do more than anything else, but also something you must feel you have to do. “And for me the answer to that was it isn’t,” Christie told the audience.
Christie is a devoted family man – so devoted that he took what he had to know would be a shot to his reformer credibility by taking a State Police helicopter to watch his son play baseball – and exposing his children to the blinding spotlight of first the campaign trail and potentially the White House seems out of character.
The Jersey Guy
The tough guy appeal that Christie wears as a badge of honor when touring the state and even the country works. People respond to it and Christie plays to it. But it works in part because it’s expected of a former prosecutor trying to clean up a state he thinks has gone to seed. Whether it works on the national stage, in places like Iowa and Kansas where Solomon Dwek and Tony Soprano are not household names and voters are looking for someone to empathize with their plight – be it farm subsidies or poverty, remains to be seen.