So Chris Christie is once again officially not running for president. He had said he wouldn't this summer, explaining that he wasn't ready, but in the past couple of weeks had been coyly rumouring about the idea.)

No surprise there. There was no point in a Christie run because he wouldn't have won the nomination. I can see why he was thinking about it--"the presidential hinges of history only swing toward a few people, and rarely more than once", wrote Mark McKinnon, arguing that now would have been the time. It probably would have been a relatively good moment for Christie, given the travails of the incumbent, the dissatisfaction among GOP elites with their current options, and the fiery mood of the voters. But just because a moment is good doesn't mean it's good enough. I argued last week that the crushing on Mr Christie reflects a certain measure of east-coast myopia. Politicians from the New York-DC corridor, with its elaborate media apparatus and tendency to navel-gaze, sometimes overestimate their national standing and appeal. And while Mr Christie may not be the second coming of Rudy Giuliani, the governor does have liabilities that have thus far been overlooked. Like Rick Perry, he's a polarizing figure, and slightly belligerent. Christie does have some moderate ideas on policy, but as we've seen thus far in the Republican primary, with Mitt Romney being attacked for his health-care reform, Mr Perry being hit on his pragmatic approach to immigration, and Jon Huntsman having halfway disqualified himself for his views on evolution and climate change, moderation isn't the key to winning over the primary voters.

The greater problem for Mr Christie, however,was that he's been governor of New Jersey for less than two years. That's part of why he kept saying he wasn't ready to run for president this summer, and he was right. There's probably no way to really prepare for the world's hardest job, and there's not a direct correlation between years in office and leadership skills, but it would be desirable to have someone who has a bit more experience. This was one of the major substantive critiques offered about Barack Obama last time around, and while it obviously didn't prevent him from becoming president, it was a major hurdle, and one that Mr Obama only overcame because by November 2008 he had kept his cool during almost two years of sustained and intense scrutiny, and in the end John McCain effectively tabled the question by picking Sarah Palin for his running-mate. Mr Obama, too, was able to say that he was a sui generis candidate, the person who would represent a historic break with the past and an obstacle to the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton contingency. I always disliked Mr Obama's argument that he had to run in 2008 because otherwise it would be "too late" for America. The truth was that otherwise it would have been to late for him. If Mr Christie were running, he would have had to answer the same question.

So cheer up, dispirited Republicans: Christie wouldn't have won, so you're no worse off today than you were before, and there are several solid options among the current candidates.

This whole episode does illustrate the benefits a politician may reap by thinking about running: it doesn't cost them anything, and it boosts their national profile. I actually find it self-aggrandising and obnoxious. Run or don't run, but don't be so precious about it. But if there's one thing we're learning in this primary season, it's that obnoxiousness is subjective.

10/05/2011 10:24

Well, that was insightful. It's true that not having an SEC affilliation probably puts the whole South out of his reach, not only as a candidate but also as a realtor.

10/07/2011 18:39

Would it really have been too late for Obama if he had waited later than 2008? He was elected at 48. He still had some four or five elections ahead of him.


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