It didn’t take much to get some conservative talking heads and policy types to start talking again about a new Republican savior. After frontrunner Rick Perry took some hits in last week’s debate and showed he had a few flaws, almost like clockwork the rumbling began again about recruiting a GOP messiah who would rescue the party from the current field of candidates. But with Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan having conclusively removed their names from consideration, all the Washington wonks have left is the least likely of the long-discussed trio of possible candidates: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Both Bill Kristol and Paul Gigot promoted the idea of a Christie candidacy yesterday on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Those are good people to have behind you, but as with the last gasp boomlet for Ryan that we heard so much about in August and early September, the Christie scenario is based more on wishful thinking than an objective analysis of Christie’s intentions or his strengths as a candidate.
It is true not everyone is happy with the choices Republicans are faced with in 2012. Rick Perry may not be nearly as formidable a candidate in a general election as he is in Republican primaries where his tough-talking Texan Tea Partier routine plays fairly well. Mitt Romney may appeal to independents but his technocratic flip-flopper persona is such that he may not be nominated no matter how good he looks on TV. And, as the Fox panel pointed out, there is still a lot of Republican money out there to be snatched up by a mystery candidate.
But midway through September, it is difficult to imagine how anyone who has done no spadework to prepare for running could manage to parachute into the race. Anyone who does so will start with an enormous disadvantage that the backing of Washington wonks can’t make up for.
More to the point, the longing for Christie seems based on the desires of those unhappy with Perry, Romney or Michele Bachmann than on those of Christie. He has already said repeatedly he’s done everything but threaten suicide to take his name out of the running for president. His reluctance to run is understandable. He has less than two years in office under his belt in New Jersey as well as having a young family and health problems (his weight and asthma attacks) that make him unlikely to deal well with the rigors of the campaign trail.
The talk about a Christie candidacy also doesn’t take into account Christie’s own tough guy act won’t necessarily play as well on the national stage as it has in the more limited theater of Trenton politics or YouTube, where his sarcastic and blunt attacks on critics have made him an Internet star. As we’ve seen with Perry, a popular governor can seem a bit less bulletproof when placed on a podium with other Republicans with their knives out.
The fact is, the public knows little about Christie other than his stands on trimming entitlements, public worker unions and spending. The hoopla over Christie ignores the fact many of his stands on social issues may not work in Republican primaries and that, unlike someone like Ryan, he has never articulated a vision about foreign policy or defense.
Christie’s arrogance can be charming, but it has also caused problems, and he has much to learn about both public office and governance. He is unready for national office and, to his credit, he has, at least to this point, shown enough self-awareness to know he ought to wait until he has served at least one full term in Trenton before he seeks another challenge.
Being human, I suppose Christie likes the flattery and will milk the speculation for a while before putting an end to it. But however long it takes for him to do so, it’s time for Republicans to put aside their fantasies and think about which of the actual candidates they will support.