Unpacking Chris Christie

Over the past few weeks, there has been rampant speculation that the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, will jump into the race for the Republican nomination. Many commentators seem to be infatuated with the idea that outside of the current crop of Republican candidates there exists a single candidate who will be able to enter the race, and have the nomination virtually secured just by the nature of entering the race.

You may recall that not all that long ago, Rick Perry was bandied about by “Green Room Republicans*” (those in the Republican party responsible for talk show booking, etc.) as the hero of the Republican base. Perry was going to come out of Texas, enter the nomination battle, and speedily hand out defeats to his rivals. Perry’s “straight-talking” Texan style, coupled with the view that he was a champion of libertarian-leaning Tea Party Republicans, appealed to many in the Republican base, those who tend to drive voter turn-out in primary battles. Perry’s ride to an easy victory, however, has come not really materialized. After performing poorly in a number of Republican debates, voices in the Republican party, and in the media, started crying out for a new hero. In a field of candidates seen populated with candidates labeled as “flip-floppers” (Romney), “unelectable” (Bachmann, Cain, Paul, Santorum), and “un-serious” (Gingrich), “straight-talking,” potential candidates seem to suck up all the oxygen in the room. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, following in the footsteps of Rick Perry and Mitch Daniels, has emerged as the latest straight-talker, a possible candidate who could potentially rise above petty bickering and speak to the issues that Republican primary voters care about.

In spite of his constant denials, Christie’s name keeps being floated as a possible contender for the GOP nomination. At this late stage of the game, however, a Christie candidacy would face numerous challenges that might prove insurmountable. With the first Republican contests scheduled to be held in January of 2012, a new entrant to the race would only have a scant fifteen weeks to undertake all the groundwork needed to produce a viable presidential campaign. Fundraising, especially in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, requires a very hands-on commitment from a candidate. Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire like to believe they have a feel for the candidates, meaning that town hall meetings and small-scale meet-and-greets are key to establishing a candidate’s support.

Any candidate attempting to enter the race at this point would have his work cut out for him. The hurdles for a sitting governor to conquer are even more problematic, requiring near-constant travel and campaigning, calling the candidate away from any responsibilities at home. Unlike some of the other candidates in the field, Christie’s position as a sitting governor would produce just one more boundary to his being able to travel around the country over the next few weeks.

Not to mention, of course, that Christie has repeatedly denied over and over that he will run. In our modern political world, denials of an intention to run for public office are taken with a grain of salt. At least. Usually more. Whole buckets of salt.

 

*The very clever term “Green Room Republicans” was coined by John Dickerson on the Slate Political Gabfest “The Big Green Tractor” Edition, September 30, 2011

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