Other doors are left open.
The Republican candidates for president in 2012 have let go a sigh of relief as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that he won’t take the plunge. Absent a late entry by Sarah Palin, the field is set, but quickly changing. This doesn’t mean Christie’s ambitions are limited to his state. In his announcement, he left open the possibilities of being vice president, not running for re-election in 2013, and running for president in the future.
“It didn’t feel right in my gut,” said Governor Christie on Tuesday. He couldn’t get himself to leave his job unfinished in New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t planning on having a big future. “Now is not my time,” he said, leaving the door open to being vice president or president.
“I’m not going to preclude any employment in the future,” Christie stated. He ducked a question about being the 2012 nominee’s running mate, saying, “I just don’t think I have the personality to be asked.”
In several ways, being the 2012 vice presidential candidate would be ideal for Christie. The N.J. legislative elections are this November, potentially allowing Christie to advance his agenda at accelerated speed. By the time of the Republican National Convention on August 12, 2012, he can safely argue that he is satisfied with what he has achieved in N.J. and has the necessary experience to be commander-in-chief if need be. By being the vice presidential nominee, he stops another running mate from coming to the forefront in 2016 if President Obama is re-elected. It also leaves the option open of seeking re-election or not, depending on the outcome of the race, and gives him experience in running a national campaign.
Christie knows he will be on any nominee’s short-list as a running mate. He is an incredible attack dog and will fire up the base. He is immensely popular and would be a dynamic fundraiser. He has a remarkable record of bi-partisanship, as his close friendship with Democratic Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, shows. The two have productively worked together and talk nearly every day. Some mayors in Hudson County, a Democratic bastion, openly praise him. Union City Mayor Brian Stack, a Democrat, calls him the best governor in the history of the state.
The major disadvantage in picking Christie is that he isn’t from a battleground state and he isn’t a minority. For those reasons, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Florida Congressman Allen West, Herman Cain and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell are strong competitors. However, it is possible that by picking Christie, President Obama will be forced to spend time and money in a state he should have locked up. It is also possible that Christie’s popularity in N.J. could have some impact on Pennsylvania, a battleground state where 51% say Obama doesn’t deserve re-election and only 43% approve of his performance.
Christie is still far from a shoo-in as a future presidential candidate. In 2012, criticism of his appointment of Sohail Mohammed as a Superior Court Judge and defense of Imam Mohammed Qatanani could have jeopardized his candidacy. Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, I and others have raised this issue. He has also been criticized for his stances on the Ground Zero Mosque, gun control, illegal immigration and global warming.
Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani remain the last two holdouts in making a final decision. Giuliani has sent a senior advisor to New Hampshire, and says he’ll enter the race if the Republican Party is “truly desperate” for a candidate who can defeat Obama. He acknowledges the difficulties he’d face as a candidate, and his entry is unlikely. There are mixed signals coming from the Palin camp. Close associates of Palin’s Political Action Committee are making calls to research the final filing dates in critical states. On the other hand, her top fundraiser in Iowa hasn't heard from her in weeks. In a TV appearance late last month, she seemed to be setting the stage not to run. She commented on how running for office can inhibit the ability to make a difference.
The candidates officially in the race can relax a bit with Christie’s announcement. The speculation about his decision was taking up all the oxygen as the second-tier candidates tried to get attention. Polls show Herman Cain overshadowing a rising Newt Gingrich and replacing Rick Perry for second place, while Michele Bachmann continues to falter. The next debate is October 11, and it will be an exciting one.