Chris Christie’s Fateful Decision & The Collision of Conventional Wisdoms
There was a collision of conventional political wisdoms yesterday as Chris Christie announced that he would not seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and neither bode well for the political future of the New Jersey governor.
One wisdom is that political celebrity is a fickle and fleeting thing in America today and he probably blew his only opportunity try the Oval Office on for size. The other is that given New Jersey’s deep problems and turbulent statehouse politics, this moderate in a liberal state will be a one-term governor as were his predecessors and won’t have much of a record to run on should he seek the nomination in 2016.
Christie was not just another potential contender. He was among the first Republicans to benefit from the backlash against the Obama administration and rode that to victory against his unpopular predecessor, one-term Governor Jon Corzine, who replaced Acting Governor Richard Codey, who got the job when Governor Jim McGreevey bailed after only three years after admitting that he was gay and that he had had an extramarital affair with a man. McGreevey had replaced the last of four acting governors who served after Christie Todd Whitman — the only governor to be re-elected in the Garden State in the last 21 years — was tapped by President Bush to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Did I say that New Jersey statehouse politics were turbulent?
The suspicion lingers that Christie himself believed he was not up for the job. While his name recognition was low among even Republicans, so was Barack Obama’s in 2007. And while Christie’s experience in elective office is limited to 21 months as governor and one year as president of his high school class, Obama also was short of experience when he came out of nowhere.
The comparisons end there, or sort of do. Obama’s watershed election had more to do with voters exhausted by the Bush-Cheney interregnum than his own qualifications. Three years on there certainly is Obama fatigue amidst the lingering effects of the Bush Recession, but that does not translate into Christie having a real shot at the White House should he have gotten the nomination. His anti-union stance alone would have been a handicap, as well as questions about whether he would have the stamina for the job because of his chronic health problems.
So the iron may never get hotter for Christie even if his recommitment to the people of New Jersey — his mantra during his speech announcing his decision to not seek the nomination — is reciprocated and he is able to pursue his ambitious policy agenda and get re-elected.