As I write this, Gov. Chris Christie is holding the press conference at which he announced he is NOT running for President in 2012. While the national media has been stoked into a frenzy of will he or won’t he, I suspect most New Jersey observers are unsurprised by the announcement.
The governor himself has said is is “not ready” and doesn’t have the fire in his belly to run. Moreover, he is less than two years into his first term as governor, a job he has said he “loves” over and over. Why ditch that for the vagaries of a presidential run? Especially when that run would very likely be too little, too late. Even with the media drumbeat, rank and file Republicans were less certain they wanted Christie in the race. A few months ago New Jerseyans said they didn’t want him to run and more recently we have found his favorability and job performance ratings are really only so-so here in the Garden State. And today we have two polls (Washington Post/ABC and CBS) that both suggest there is less than an overwhelming call for him to run.
So the Christie for President frenzy is over. At least for 2012. But we’ll probably still go through a Christie for Vice President, or Christie for Cabinet (if a Republican wins) so there is most likely more to come. But for now the Governor can focus on the Garden State and the issues we face here. Which is as it should be.
Was this a good move for Gov. Christie? On balance, yes. If he is interested in being re-elected in 2013, he made the right choice. A failed presidential run would have doomed his chances, and most likely ended a promising political career. While re-election is far from certain, given the (still) Democratic nature of New Jersey, so far the Democrats do not seem to have a clear alternative. Focusing on the needs of our state, and managing his own ambition, seems to make sense. And if Obama wins in 2012, this will look like a very smart move. Christie will no doubt be an immediate front runner for 2016, assuming he does get re-elected in 2013. And if a Republican wins in 2012, then he may have to bide his time a little longer, which is more risky. Even if he wins in 2013, he will be out of office by January 2018, with two years to go before the next Iowa Caucus. It’s hard to know if he can sustain the needed media interest without the bully pulpit of elected office.
In any case, we can now go back to our regularly scheduled program of understanding public opinion and policy in the great state of New Jersey. We’ll have something new on that next week, so stay tuned!