The national-political story right now focuses on three non-candidates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and Secretary of State Hillary Cllinton, who might become candidates for their parties' presidential nominations.
National media would welcome the entry of any or all of them. It would jack up public interest — and TV ratings and print readership — during this in-between period before voters actually start casting ballots in primaries and caucuses early in 2012.
What about these three?
Christie is the Newest Thing in national Republican politics and being urged by major GOP fundraisers, among others, to join a presidential nominating field which leaves them unexcited. He gave a widely noted speech this past Tuesday at the Reagan Library which many saw as "presidential" and is greatly in demand as a speaker and TV-interview guest. But he is ending only the second year of his New Jersey governorship and consistently has stated that he will not be a presidential candidate in 2012.
Christie clearly has political gifts. He has strong approval ratings in a heavily Democratic state, having recently achieved public pension reforms by facing down powerful public-employee and teachers unions. He is a blunt and often witty plain talker who avoids the usual candidate-speak. His blue-collar origins put him easily on the same wavelength with Democrats who gave him a 2010 electoral victory over former Gov. Jon Corzine but who voted for many of their usual Democratic favorites down the ballot. (He knows and belts out the lyrics of the Bruce Springsteen songbook). He is a former U.S. Attorney whose appointment initially was protested by many leading members of the New Jersey bar but whose reputation grew, year by year, in the job.
Less noted, at this early stage, is the fact that his views on social issues are more in tune with his state than those of GOP social conservatives who may be dissatisfied at this point with Texas Gov. Rick Perry or Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Coming up in New Jersey, he also accumulated political baggage which included back-and-forth lawsuits vs. political opponents and a stint as a state lobbyist for financial and business firms. His few foreign-policy-related statements reflect the fact that he has little foreign-affairs knowledge or experience — unimportant in the state house but important in the White House.
His health also is a question. He has fought a constant battle with his weight and, in a recent network interview, confided that he often felt fatigued because of the excess poundage. He has been admitted to emergency rooms with asthma attacks. The weight issue might seem unimportant but a presidential campaign, and a presidency, are physically and mentally taxing ordeals reserved, as President Woodrow Wilson put it, "for a small company of athletes."
Four years ago Republicans were urging former Sen. and TV personality Fred Thompson to rescue the party by entering the nominating race. Thompson, a lazy and low-achieving senator, proved to be a lazy and low-achieving candidate and exited the race only a brief time after finally entering it. Would this be the case with Christie? I doubt it. Christie is strong and energetic and no doubt would wage the same kind of nominating campaign if he entered.
Most winning candidates have thought about, and prepared for, presidential candidacies for big chunks of their lives. Christie, 49, has been in the big time less than two years. It is a wise man who knows himself and Christie does not strike me as a guy who could be flattered and cajoled into entering the race for a job for which he knows he is unprepared. A 2012 vice-presidential nominee? Perhaps. Christie's approval ratings as a governor may never be higher than they are today. A run as his party's No. 2 next year could position him, win or lose, to advance. Odds: I make it 55-45 that Christie will not enter the nominating race.
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