If you follow conservative politics even a little, you know that NJ Governor Chris Christie is a rock star. Over the past year or so, his name continues to come up as a real contender for the White House in 2012. The only problem is, he’s repeatedly and forcefully said he won’t run. That hasn’t stopped conservatives from hoping he’ll change his mind. Jennifer Rubin points out that a weak GOP field could provide enough temptation for him to make those folks happy.
He [Christie], of course, insists he isn’t running for president. But here’s the deal (a Christie-ism): if he racks up another big win in the budget fights, the GOP field continues to shrink and disappoint and the economy is still in the doldrums, don’t you think Christie might just decide to take the ball and run with it? And with his reputation and name identification, he could make that decision in November. By then, the Republican electorate should be desperate for a candidate who can not only beat Obama but take Washington by storm.
She’s right. The electoral situation a year from now may be too good for him to resist taking a shot at the White House. However, if Chris Christie runs for President in 2012, he’ll lose.
I kicked this around with Steve Green and Ed Driscoll on The Delivery last week. We voters tend to give politicians a lot of slack when it comes to campaign denials. We’re willing to accept that most politicians lie, so we don’t hold it against them when they say one month they won’t run for an office then fire up an exploratory committee a month or two later. It’s almost a dance. They get coy and say “no no” while their eyes and their donor lists are saying “yes yes”.
I don’t think Chris Christie will get that sort of slack from the right and here’s why. His entire stock and trade is honesty; in fact, he said as much when he told a police officer recently that he was the first Governor to tell state employees the truth. He simply can not afford a hit to his credibility because it’s the best, and maybe only, real weapon he has. He’s not a policy or financial wonk. He’s not a brilliant orator. He’s not the epitome of sartorial splendor. His honesty with the public and state employees has allowed him to achieve the impossible — big victories over entrenched Democrats and their public sector union allies. And doing the impossible, as Mal Reynolds once said, makes him mighty.
If he decide to enter the race, he will give up that might. In the eyes of a good many voters, he will be just another politician whose word they can’t trust. Without that trust, the practiced and polished candidates on both sides will eat him alive.
Why would he give up his hard-earned credibility for a run now when he could build more and run in an election of his choosing later? He’s still young. He’ll still be a conservative darling so long as he keeps beating down the spendaholic, taxaholic Democratic party (and there’s no indication he’ll stop). People will still thirst for a politician they can trust. He has no good reason to trade his vital core for a run at the Presidency. From what I’ve seen from him, his integrity is far too valuable to be spent so cheaply, and I think most Republican voters would agree.