The Freak Show: Run, Christie, Run… Or Not!

Governor Chris Christie recently announced [again] that he will not bow to the wishes of the Republicans clamoring for him to get into the race for the Republican nomination for 2012. He has said before he won’t run, so it’s not exactly news, however he had given some indications of vacillating about the decision. Could he change his mind again at this point? Yes, but it does seem like the time frame wouldn’t allow him to make a run at this late date in the primary process.

There’s good reason why Republicans have been so anxious to get him into the race. We have a Democratic President who is very low in the polls, and seems vulnerable. And the best candidates the Republicans have come up with thus far don’t seem to be exciting the Republican base, let alone the electorate in general.

The Republicans thought they had the answer in Rick Perry, the governor of Texas. After all, it worked the last time they picked a Texas governor. When Perry entered the race, he came in as the new hotshot who would get everyone energized. That lasted as long as it took for him to participate in his first debate. Not only did he not come off as a great communicator, it allowed a spotlight on some of his policies that just plain pissed off the far right.

It came out that he actually was in favor of in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. They don’t like the fact that he shows some compassion toward children who, through no fault of their own, are here and wanted to better themselves through education. He wasn’t giving them anything for free, by the way; they just had to pay tuition at the in-state rate. But even that was too much for the ultra-conservatives.

Additionally, a big factor was that he put in place a plan that gave free shots to young girls—if they didn’t opt out—of a vaccination that would help protect them against a form of cancer. There were certainly issues with it, most notably the campaign contributions from the company that would supply the drug, but the furor was escalated by Michelle Bachmann saying she heard from ‘someone’ that a girl who got it, ended up retarded due to complications from the vaccine. That claim was unsubstantiated, but it was enough to cause uproar in the debates.

There were other issues as well, but basically the savoir of the Republican field was found to be very lacking. His coat of armor was soon reduced to the emperor with no clothes.

What does this have to do with Governor Christie? Everything… how long before he would have to start laying out hard and precise positions on things like the pro-choice/pro-life debate, immigration reform, gay marriage and other issues that the Republican base has strong feelings about? He has thus far been able to dance around those issues, which is imperative in a fairly moderate to liberal state such as New Jersey. If things didn’t work out with the presidential race, he would run the risk of alienating New Jersey voters with hard line conservative stands necessary to please the national Republican base. It’s a no-win situation for him.

He also has expressed, and shown, a great capacity for getting things done through compromise. That’s another anathema to the current Republican base. They favor a hard line, no compromise attitude toward dealing with Democrats. They’ve shown they’d rather shut down the government than compromise on anything that goes against their stringent beliefs.

The reason Christie has been successful in New Jersey is his ability to take a hard line, then work things out with the Democrats and hammer out an agreement. He has even quoted Ronald Reagan on the necessity for compromise. Ironically, the Godfather of the modern Republican party, who is referred to as their hero and guiding light, would himself fail to meet their stringent test on many issues, especially when it comes to compromising when the need arises.

Christie might also be wise to wait and gauge the landscape in 2016. Things might be more amenable for a run at that time. While things may still be difficult as far as the Republican base, if Obama wins re-election they may realize they have to think about which candidates might actually have a chance of winning a general election.

Public sentiment might also shift after four more years of an Obama presidency. Just as with President Clinton, and then President Bush, after eight years in office it seems like the public is ready for a change. Public sentiment also might come into play in this election. Even though President Obama has low ratings, as I stated earlier, the ratings of the Republicans in Congress are even lower. So the election might not be as much of a slam-dunk as the base is currently hoping.

Christie also danced around the idea of accepting a role as a vice presidential candidate. While that seems unlikely, it is a distinct possibility he will be asked. He stated that anyone who knows him will know that he doesn’t work well as a “number two,” but many VPs have used it as a stepping stone to the presidency.

So, did Governor Christie do the right thing in not entering the race for the nomination? Yes, he did. He ran the risk of not pleasing the base, like Governor Perry, and of alienating New Jersey voters, which could have cost him a lot of the clout he has built up thus far during his term as governor. He let the hype build him up to a place where he gained the status of a national figure in the Republican Party, without jeopardizing his position here. He played his cards perfectly. We’ll be hearing a lot more from Governor Christie in the coming years.