Christie the latest to spurn GOP
WASHINGTON — Chris Christie never left the column of no-gos, but his courtship this late in the Republican presidential nomination fight says as much about the rest of the GOP field as it does about him.
How much this grass-is-greener phenomenon will affect the outcome of the 2012 election won't be clear until a nominee is chosen. Among the many political axioms is the one about how hard it is to get re-elected in an economy as bad as this one. But another is that you have to beat somebody with somebody. And for Republicans, 2011 has been defined as much by the big-name somebodies who have taken a pass, the latest being Christie.
The New Jersey governor said Tuesday he felt obligated to finish the job he had been elected to do two years ago, to “fix a broken New Jersey,” rather than run for president. He joins a parade of Republican governors who have deliberated and demurred. Earlier this year, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Jeb Bush, formerly the governor of Florida, all declined to join the race.
Some Republicans say the “electability” question is more urgent this time because of a growing perception that President Barack Obama has become more beatable. An ABC News-Washington Post poll released Tuesday found that 55 percent of respondents believe a Republican would defeat Obama next year.
Consequently, there are equally urgent questions about whether Republicans have put their best players on the field. And the answers to another Post-ABC poll question should give pause to GOP confidence.
The poll showed that the GOP front-runners, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, do not wear well with Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Some 42 percent said that the more they learned about Romney the less they liked about him, as opposed to 38 percent who liked him more. For Perry the split was worse: 56 percent to 29 percent. By contrast, businessman Herman Cain, who has risen to a virtual second-place tie with Perry, is making good impressions. Some 70 percent said the more they learned about Cain the more they liked him. But candidates from the business world — most recently Steve Forbes — do not have a history of enduring grueling presidential nominations.
In his announcement Tuesday, Christie said he believed people were courting him because he had a record of getting things done on a bipartisan basis. He said he was flattered by the courtship but doubted it was because of dissatisfaction with the Republican field.
During his 45-minutes in the national spotlight, Christie displayed humor, self-deprecation and a willingness to bluntly take on his questioners — some of the traits that appealed to those urging him to run. Christie said he had no problems with people making fun of his weight as long as the jokes were funny. He dismissed chances of being someone's running mate next year, arguing no one would say “my personality is best suited to being No. 2.”
“Definitely, in bowing out he reinforced a lot of things that caused people to want him to run in the first place,” said former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, a New Jersey native. “He is kind of everyman, connects with the people. … He is a no-nonsense person at a time where there is no tolerance for nonsense.”
But Gillespie said he did not believe that Christie's courtship was a negative reflection on those who are running. Gillespie noted the same thing happened in 1992, when big names like Al Gore stayed out while a little-known governor named Bill Clinton survived big doubts to win the presidency.
“Whomever emerges with the nomination is going to have proven himself or herself to be very effective,” Gillespie said. “The process itself will give us a strong nominee, and I also think that the field is strong.”
Christie would have needed to raise a lot of money, and quickly, to catch up. Last week, Florida bucked national party rules and decided to move its primary to Jan, 31, tipping caucus and primary dominoes that could push the Iowa caucuses to the first week of January, or sooner. That's less than three months away..