The speculation about Chris Christie seriously considering a run for the presidency may be about to end if today’s reports about the New Jersey governor finally telling backers that he won’t do so are true. Given his stated reluctance, the obstacles to a late entry into the race and the plain fact Christie is clearly unprepared for either the presidency or a national campaign, this can’t be considered terribly surprising to anyone but those pundits and other kibitzers who have been relentlessly plugging this story.
But if Christie is finally going to put us all out of our misery about his desire to sit in the Oval Office, it does raise one very interesting question about the major donors and other Republican big shots who appear to have gone all out to try and change his mind. Once Christie finally removes his name from consideration, where do those who believed he could be their guy go now?
That’s not an easy question to answer. Many Republicans have been seeking an alternative to the man who would stand to lose the most from a Christie candidacy: Mitt Romney. Many if not most conservatives see Romney as a technocrat with no firm beliefs. It’s not just that they don’t like his contrived defense of his Massachusetts health care bill that will effectively prevent Republicans from running against Obamacare next year. It’s that they don’t trust him to do the right things even if he is elected.
Inevitably, a definitive “no” from Christie will reignite speculation about Mitch Daniels, who was the first Republican savior to bow out back in May. But that, like the effort to drag Paul Ryan into the race earlier this month, is almost certainly doomed to failure. If neither Christie, Ryan or Daniels will run, those who don’t want Romney to be the GOP candidate are either going to have sto settle on someone else or make their peace with Mitt. The days of expecting another Republican to alter the current equation are over. The GOP nominee is going to be somebody who has spent the summer wandering the countryside in search of votes, not a politician who spent it skulking in his tent.
This is good news for Romney, because Christie would have eaten into his support more than any other contender and perhaps doomed his hopes. With no moderate or centrist Republican in position to challenge him, Romney’s chances of winning the nomination have just markedly increased.
It also represents a second and perhaps last chance for Rick Perry. Though many observers have spent the last few days writing off his chances in the wake of his disastrous debate performances and defeat in the Florida straw poll, as Alana noted earlier today, Perry still can count on the support of many conservatives who view the Texas governor as the most attractive choice. But Perry cannot keep embarrassing himself at the debates and remain viable.
If Perry can recover at the Oct. 11 debate in New Hampshire, it will not only encourage his base of Tea Partiers and social conservatives to stick with him rather than a long shot like Herman Cain, Rick Santorum or the sinking Michele Bachmann. It might also persuade some leading conservatives and others who pursued Daniels, Ryan and Christie that he can beat Romney.
Granted, expecting Perry to pull out of his tailspin or at least to avoid looking foolish at the next debate may be similar to expectations the Boston Red Sox will revive from their September swoon and make a run to the World Series. But stranger things have happened.
In the meantime, Christie’s decision ought to bring a smile to Romney’s face. He may still be wearing it when those who implored Christie to run come to him with checks in hand.