The Christie Speculation

The grass is always greener on the candidate not running (or something like that).

The dissatisfaction in some corners of the conservative commentariat continues to simmer over the slate of GOP candidates  (yes, I am looking at you, Bill Kristol), and hence the hankering for some Chris Christie builds.

Over at The Corner, Robert Costa writes:

Former New Jersey governor Tom Kean, who has known Chris Christie since he was a teenager and remains an informal adviser, tells National Review Online that the governor is “very seriously” considering a presidential bid.

“It’s real,” Kean says. “He’s giving it a lot of thought. I think the odds are a lot better now than they were a couple weeks ago.”

Christie remains undecided, Kean says, but is listening closely to pleas from party leaders. The chance for a “Jersey guy” to rise, Kean says, is not something Christie has sought. But now, with the field up for grabs, he is actively mulling a late entry.

“More and more people are talking to him,” Kean says. “He’s getting appeals from major figures around the country.” Kean, for his part, is also encouraging the first-term Republican to jump in. “He is the best speaker I may have ever heard in politics,” he tells me.

“In an era when most people suspect that politicians read polls and then tell you what they think, people don’t believe he’s that kind of a fellow,” Kean says. “He tells you what he thinks, period. We like that around here.”

First, telling people what one thinks is not the issue, as one has to both tell people what one thinks and have said people like what is being told to them.  Any number of politicians tell people what they think (off the top of my head:  Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, and Bernie Sanders) and yet their forthrightness does not get them all that far in terms of national politics.   Candor for candor’s sake is not as much the unvarnished good that so many make it out to be.  The fact that Christie can be blunt clearly  makes him appealing to those who like to gush over him.  But I am at a loss as to why that trait alone is supposed to make him so desirable, as bluntness can cut multiple ways (i.e., it can offend people as well as energize them).   Indeed, the notion that Christie can just come in and be a brash bulldog seems to be the main reason people like him, but winning the nomination, let alone the presidency, takes a bit more than that.

Second, it is always amazing as to the degree to which politicos and pundits can act like That Guy Not Running is the answer.  It is as if it is forgotten that part of the reason that That Guy is so appealing is because his/her last name is Not Running.  Once That Guy changes his/her last name to The Candidate, the criticisms come (as do the opportunities to make mistakes, as Governor Perry has demonstrated).  Further, in Christie’s case, I have to wonder as to the degree to which a New Jersey governor is going to be well positioned to take control of a party that is exceedingly southern in its orientation of late (granted, Romney has similar issues to deal with as well).

Third, it wasn’t that long ago that That Guy was Rick Perry.  This is interesting only insofar as it shows how easy it is for a candidate to appear to be The One (if I may use the phrase) when the candidate is not actively involved in the campaign.  When one is That Guy, usually one enters the race with high numbers (what being the savior and all) and one only can go down from there, at least in the short run, when people actually find out what the candidates stands for.

Having said all of that I would note that 1)  Perry is still in pretty good shape as a candidate and 2) it also makes sense for party activists to be trying to figure out, at this stage, their best options for November.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. legion says:

    Ummm… I hate to be the one to point this out, but have any of the people banging this particular drum stopped for a few minutes to think about just how easy it is to do opposition research on a New Jersey politician? The GOP might want to consider extending their primary season until about October 2012, because, with the caliber of people they’re bringing up as potential candidates (you do remember Donald Trump, don’t you?), won’t last more than about a week in the open air before some self-destructive turns them into chicken feed…

  2. Moosebreath says:

    “When one is That Guy, usually one enters the race with high numbers (what being the savior and all) and one only can go down from there, at least in the short run, when people actually find out what the candidates stands for.”

    Nate Silver has a good piece on Christie’s positions. My takeaway is that immigration, and lack of anti-Muslim prejudice is likely to sink him in a Republican primary.

  3. mantis says:

    Once That Guy changes his/her last name to The Candidate, the criticisms come (as do the opportunities to make mistakes, as Governor Perry has demonstrated).

    Indeed. Christie is smart for staying out. Perry, not so smart. Charles Pierce has a good piece up at Esquire about the Republican primary field:

    It is not possible to run for president as a Republican these days without at some level having to become a parody of yourself. Running within a radicalized, self-contained universe with its own private, physical laws and its own private history, with its own vocabulary and syntax that has to be learned from scratch almost daily, requires an ongoing manic re-invention that can do nothing but make the candidate look ridiculous to people outside that universe.

    This is how we get Mitt Romney, with his $290 million, telling an audience that he doesn’t “try to define who is rich and who is not rich.” (Here’s a hint, Mitt. You’re rich. You’re filthy, stinking rich. You reek of money. You belong on a card in a Monopoly set, okay? Buy a damn monocle already.)

    Hell, this is how we get Mitt Romney, period, perhaps the most consummate fake in American political history, who once promised in a Senate race that he would be gayer than Ted Kennedy on the issues, and who, as governor, signed into law an insurance-friendly health-care reform act when he thought that would springboard him to the nomination in 2008, and who then reconfigured himself as a conservative in 2008 so convincingly that most of the rest of the field ended up wanting to spit at the mention of his name, and who is bringing that same act around the track once more this time, even though the health reform.

    (Since he took his act national, Mitt’s finest moment may well have been telling Brian Mooney of The Boston Globe that, when he was doing his Mormon mission in France, he really wanted to be fighting in Vietnam. In other words, rather than pestering wine-growers in Provence, Mitt really wanted to be humping the pig across the Central Highlands. This is so stupefyingly fraudulent as to be goddamn close to immortal.)

    It is possible — although certainly debatable — that Mitt Romney would be less of a phony if the Republican primary process were not controlled by the gibbering loon faction of the party. Unfortunately, as demonstrated clearly by the events in Florida just now, that remains the case. The obvious story of the whole weekend is that the party’s base is for the moment running utterly amuck. It screamed to be covered. A Republican may well get elected president next year. But, whoever that is, first has to answer, constantly, to the voices in the party’s head. It’s exhausting work. It’s already eaten Bachmann alive, and Herman Cain is next on the menu. Which is probably why so much energy seems to be going into the promotion of candidates who are not running. Right now, the non-candidate du jour is Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who replaced Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who replaced Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who made the capital mistake of actually running, and who already has flummoxed and disappointed Bill Kristol, maker of public men and truly unnecessary wars.

    Kristol, of course, is the yeast behind the intellectual ferment that has produced, in order, Dan Quayle, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin. A sane country party would be wondering at this point about a party that takes this person seriously as a political thinker and a public intellectual. If Bill Kristol went to the track, he’d bet on the fucking starting gate. Nevertheless, he is what passes for a wise man in a party that has surrendered utterly to its intellectual Id.

    It’s a long piece, and worth reading.

  4. MBunge says:

    I don’t know much about Christie because no one in the media seems all that interested in his actual qualifications, accomplishments or character. All I know is that if he runs in 2016 I’ll definitely consider him because of what he’s doing now. He’s either smart enough politically to recognize a sucker bet when it’s presented to him or he’s smart enough personally to understand his own limitations.

    Mike

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    @mantis: This sums up today’s Republican Party:

    Running within a radicalized, self-contained universe with its own private, physical laws and its own private history, with its own vocabulary and syntax that has to be learned from scratch almost daily, requires an ongoing manic re-invention that can do nothing but make the candidate look ridiculous to people outside that universe.

  6. Lit3Bolt says:

    @mantis:

    An article you won’t find brought up by OTB’s headliners. Instead you’ll find musings on how our politics are broken side by side articles chastising anyone for prefering a different political system or a third party candidate, along with the typical “both sides do it” and “government=bad” Livejournal entries.

    The code of omerta is strong amongst conservatives…

  7. Boyd says:

    First off, Doc, let me emphasize that I don’t disagree with any of your analysis of Christie’s potential as a Republican Presidential candidate, or whether he’ll run, or the likelihood of success if he does run.

    That being said, though, I think you oversimplify what makes Governor Christie attractive to so many people. It’s not just that he’s blunt, brash, and tells folks what he thinks. It’s that he mixes those things with humility, authority and integrity (note that I’m speaking about what he projects; whether he actually possesses any of those characteristics is a separate issue). Add in some conservative-ish views, and that makes him very attractive to lots of people, at least at first blush.

    I guess what I’m trying to say here is that the characteristic that distinguishes Christie from Paul, Nader and Kucinich (I’ll leave Sanders out, since he’s not nearly as well-known to me) is his personality, how he projects himself. His personality is much more than just brash and outspoken.

    I can’t think of a recent politician of any stripe that has a similar way of projecting his personality. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Harry Truman, but that’s a pretty imperfect comparison, too.

  8. @Boyd: I will grant, that bluntness is oversimplifying things a bit, yes (although my direct inspiration was the Kean quote).

    that makes him very attractive to lots of people, at least at first blush.

    Of course (and as you allow), the “first blush” thing is my point.

  9. Fiona says:

    I think Christie is smart to sit this one out in the hopes that the Republican Party will return to some level of sanity by 2016. I don’t know too much about the guy, but it seems like he’d have a tough time pandering to the evangelical base. And, as Stephen noted, being a Jersey guy in a Southern party isn’t going to take him very far this go round.

  10. Kit Smith says:

    Steven, I think the biggest thing you’re missing here is WHO in the GOP is calling for Christie to enter the race. You definitely caught onto the regional support issue in how the party has shifted, but when you look at who is (and consistently has been) calling for Christie to enter the race I think you’ll notice that they’re mostly East Coast metropolitan types or inside the Beltway types; it’s been the hoi polloi/the Tea Partiers of the GOP who wanted someone like Perry to enter the race, to be a good Texas-style conservative on the ballot. You’re absolutely correct as to why Christie-the-not-candidate is perceived better than Christie-the-candidate would be, though.

  11. jukeboxgrad says:

    the biggest thing you’re missing here is WHO in the GOP is calling for Christie to enter the race

    Yup. For example, one of the people pushing Christie is Paul Singer. Singer, who has a son who is in a gay marriage, has been pushing for legalization of gay marriage in New York. That is, he is exactly the kind of Republican that the tea party has been chasing out of the GOP.

    So Christie is a threat to Romney, not to Perry.

  12. samwide says:

    The interest in Christie is a response to the ever-increasing sphincter tightness in the Republican elites as they contemplate the SNL parody fodder vying for the nomination.

  13. Wayne says:

    The idea we shouldn’t be on the lookout for a better Presidential candidate and we should choose the first halfway decent candidate that comes along sounds asinine to me.

    Primaries or like preseason in sports. You bring in recruits to take a look at them. You are on constant lookout for better talent. You may like your QB or linebacker but it would foolish not to be on look out for an even better one. Granted if you don’t like them you may want to keep even a sharper look out for one but you should be on the lookout for better talent either way. Also there have even been walk-ons that turn into great players. Not one decent program simply says “we recruited enough players to fill the roster. That is good enough.Stop looking and no walk-ons allowed.”

    Presidential primaries are a chance to take a look at your candidates to see what they have. Many have little idea what a politician outside our state is like until something like the primaries happen. Let Christie or anyone else jump into the race. We can go through the process and choose the best one. Yes a big field is annoying but it will narrow down fast enough.

  14. @Wayne:

    The idea we shouldn’t be on the lookout for a better Presidential candidate and we should choose the first halfway decent candidate that comes along sounds asinine to me.

    Hmm. This might be why the last sentence of the post is:

    it also makes sense for party activists to be trying to figure out, at this stage, their best options for November.

    😉

  15. WR says:

    @Boyd: Christie completely embodies the only principle that matters to conservatives these days — he pisses off liberals. That makes some particularly dim Republicans think he’s speaking truth, when he’s only a rich and powerful bully who likes to stomp of people with less money and less power.

  16. mantis says:

    The idea we shouldn’t be on the lookout for a better Presidential candidate and we should choose the first halfway decent candidate that comes along sounds asinine to me.

    Is anyone putting that idea forward, or are you just pissed at straw today?

    Let Christie or anyone else jump into the race.

    No one is stopping them. Christie doesn’t want to jump in the race and go down like Perry.

    Yes a big field is annoying but it will narrow down fast enough.

    By necessity. The earliest state deadlines for filing are November 1. That’s one month for any potential primary candidate to decide and file, or else he/she would not be on the ballot in all states. The campaigns of others, especially Romney, started a long time ago, and there have been quite a few debates already. Any latecomer would have serious campaign-building deficits to make up, and unless he/she were a well-known national figure, would have a lot of work to do to catch up on public awareness.

    In short, commentators are not shutting out additional candidates, the reality of modern campaigns and the schizophrenia of the current Republican Party are.

  17. Boyd says:

    @WR: Let’s see…ad hominem, misrepresentation and unwavering contempt for people who have the temerity to disagree with him.

    We don’t have to worry about a hacker having taken over WR’s computer. That’s definitely the real deal.

  18. WR says:

    @Boyd: My contempt is reserved for Chris Christie, a man whose entire career is based on beating up people who have less power than he does. Yeah, he’s a real tough guy for telling teachers to shut up, or that they’re lucky to have a job. He’s really a big man for slashing the wages and benefits of state workers so he can shovel more tax breaks to himself and his rich buddies. In that way he’s like every other Republican governor — but when he does it he tells his victims to go to hell, so the right worships him like a god.

    Go ahead, Boyd, tell me where the misrepresentation lies. Tell me all about the good things he’s done as governor — like screw up an application so the state lost hundreds of millions in education funding, and then blaming the screwup on one of his aides when it was no one’s fault but his own. I guess if he could have blamed it on a janitor he’d already be the nominee…

  19. Boyd says:

    @WR: First, I’m glad you didn’t deny the ad hominem. That would be pretty hard to get past. 🙂

    It’s pretty obvious that you slather your contempt around on many more targets than just the Governor of New Jersey, so I don’t feel it’s accurate to claim it’s “reserved for Chris Christie,” e.g.:

    …the only principle that matters to conservatives these days — he pisses off liberals.

    Which is also your misrepresentation in this instance.

  20. Wayne says:

    @mantis
    Anytime anyone suggest at looking at other possible candidates, there are many post about how dissatisfied the GOP are with the current candidates. As I stated that is not necessarily true. Although IMO most voters are dissatisfied with our quality of politicians in general. Many have claim that potential candidates shouldn’t even bother getting into the race. I’m just saying we should always be looking for better politicians in the primaries instead of accepting what the party leaders put forth.

    We should be encouraging more people to get into political races not telling them if you don’t have a pedigree don’t bother.

  21. WR says:

    @Boyd: Really? I read the commenters here. Time after time, whether the talk is about a candidate or a bill, the only positive criterion that ever comes up for support it is “liberals really hate it” or “she makes liberals’ heads explode.”

  22. Lit3bolt says:

    @WR:

    The Right runs on spite. Liberals really hate Satan, the Great Deceiver and Lord of Lies and Damnation, so he must be a shoo-in for the Republican nomination, because he “makes liberals’ heads explode.” Because politics and government is all about the right bumper sticker and enjoying the misery of others.

  23. Rob in CT says:

    Seriously, I’ve never heard (or seen) a liberal say (or write) “I love so-and-so, yeah they’re a little out there, but he/she really pisses of Conservatives!” I see/hear Conservatives saying the reverse a lot. Pissing off liberals is a BIG positive in a candidate, based on my experience.

    Boyd, if this does not fit with your experience, ok, I respect that.

  24. Boyd says:

    @Rob in CT: Don’t misunderstand my objection, Rob. This is my quote of WR again:

    …the only principle that matters to conservatives these days — he pisses off liberals.

    I emphasized the word above that is the basis of my point. Anyone who believes that the only principle that matters to conservatives is irritating liberals is either a fool or a liar. And WR ain’t no fool.

    Sure, plenty of conservatives openly like irritating liberals. But that’s their “only principle?” Please.