Political Animal


September 26, 2011 8:35 AM The lessons behind the incessant Christie scuttlebutt

By Steve Benen

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has said, over and over again, he won’t run for president in 2012. He’s said on national television that he’s “not ready” to serve as president, and he’s told reporters, “Short of suicide, I don’t really know what I’d have to do to convince you people that I’m not running.”

And yet, talk in Republican circles about recruiting Christie into the race not only continues, it’s getting much louder. While the scuttlebutt has generally been limited to a handful of conservative reporters, over the weekend, the rumors gained new salience when Politico reported that the governor is “reconsidering” his decision and “has indicated he is listening to big-money backers and Republican influence-makers.” Time’s Mark Halperin added that Christie “has had recent conversations that have indicated an openness to a run.”

I haven’t the foggiest idea whether to take these rumors seriously. I can, however, make some larger observations about the fact that the rumors persist despite the governor’s forceful denials.

First, if Christie is serious (and I rather doubt he is), it’s worth reemphasizing that jumping into a national race at this late stage is extremely, probably prohibitively, difficult. The Iowa caucuses are less than five months away, and it takes time, not only for a candidate to get prepared, but to create a national campaign framework. Christie may like to bully voters, but he can’t bully the calendar.

Second, and probably more important, is the fact that this incessant scuttlebutt is a reminder of just how weak the Republicans’ 2012 field really is. Yes, given the larger economic conditions, one of these candidates may end up winning next year, but the fact that so many GOP officials, fundraisers, powerbrokers, and pundits are still desperately looking for a savior reinforces a simple truth: this is a pretty awful group of candidates that leaves many Republicans underwhelmed, uninspired, and apparently a little panicky.

I can’t say I blame them. If I were a major GOP insider asked to choose between the unlikable flip-flopper, the dimwitted governor, the wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, the disgraced former Speaker, the guy who ran a pizza company, the radical libertarian, and the former Obama administration official, I too might be asking myself, “Who else can we reach out to?”

Finally, the Wall Street Journal reports today that the Christie speculation is still a waste of time.

Mr. Christie’s aides say the governor hasn’t budged from his months-long insistence that he won’t enter the presidential fray, despite what one described as a “relentless” stream of calls over the last week from prominent Republicans urging him to run.

“None of that triggers any new thinking on his part,” said one Christie adviser. “He’s very polite to these people: ‘Thank you for calling. That’s very flattering. I’ll let you know.’ And I think they interpret that, ‘Ah-ha! A rethinking.’ “

I don’t imagine this will end the speculation, but if it does, we’ll probably just see another round of reports asking, “What’s Jeb Bush up to?”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • sick-n-effn-tired. on September 26, 2011 8:40 AM:

    Good qualifications for a Republican Candidate :
    Hi there my name is ____________ and I'm not as batshit crazy as the rest of the people you have seen so far.

  • stevio on September 26, 2011 8:40 AM:

    Run Sarah, run. Please run.

    It would make my and Pat Robertson's day...

  • Danp on September 26, 2011 8:42 AM:

    Republicans underwhelmed, uninspired, and apparently a little panicky.

    Oh, if only we could find an intelligent, reasonable candidate that truly believes all our bullshit.

  • Live Free or Die on September 26, 2011 8:45 AM:

    This is a comment addressing the thread below. The Washington Post has given Obama a 3 Pinocchio liar measurement for his speech at the bridge last week, on some bullshit technicality. Factchecking I guess is another form of saying "both sides".


  • j on September 26, 2011 8:45 AM:

    Looks like the Penney's underwear model Mittens Romney is the front runner now, I have to say that apart from his insincerity and the fact that that he will change his views in an instant if it helps him because he is an empty suit - I just find Mormonism creepy!

  • Live Free or Die on September 26, 2011 8:50 AM:

    Christie is Morning Joe's fantasy come to fruition. He has been pimping out Christie for almost 9 months. I have never before now seen a case where the media literally picks out a candidate to push into running. Last time I saw Christie's ratings in NJ he was underwater. How is he going to win if he cannot win his state? I do not remember the media getting behind anyone to run against Bush his second term.

  • MattF on September 26, 2011 8:52 AM:

    It's mildly amusing to see all the Perry fans suddenly realizing what 'Republican' actually means in Texas. I'm a teensy bit disappointed that no one has thought of giving Fred Thompson a second chance. But I don't follow Mark Halperin's drunk-tweets, either.

  • delNorte on September 26, 2011 8:52 AM:

    Aware of how weak the Republican presidential candidates are, Republican legislators will continue to throw sticks into the spokes of effective governance, and, if Obama is re-elected and Repubs remain in control of some part of the legislature, we will have an additional 2-4 years of dysfunction.

    How are we going to progress as a nation when the biggest battles we have are simply over how to keep the lights on? Remember when global warming was actually an issue to be taken seriously? Have you heard any politician mention that issue (other than Republicans denying it even exists) in the past months?

  • Danp on September 26, 2011 8:56 AM:

    I have never before now seen a case where the media literally picks out a candidate to push into running

    If I were in the media, I might be pushing for someone with the characteristics of Snookie, too.

  • c u n d gulag on September 26, 2011 9:04 AM:

    Christie won't run.

    MFer can barely waddle.

    And yeah, I can practically see Jeb sitting there by his phone, smiling, waiting for it to ring.

    But, then, I've been predicting him entering for a long, long time.
    He's just waiting for the call.
    All he needs to do is to snap his fingers, and all of his Dad's pals will come running.
    They know they have a lot of making up to do after their Little Boots disaster.

  • John Dillinger on September 26, 2011 9:09 AM:

    Christie may excite conservative political junkies, but the Republican base is Christianist and southern. A sweaty guy from NJ, who doesn't tout his religion, isn't going to excite them.

  • walt on September 26, 2011 9:16 AM:

    Christie doesn't have to excite the Christianists' Jesus love. The erogenous zone he does massage is much more orgasmic: meannesss. Why else would Christie be the subject of so much Halperin-ardor? Because he's an asshole. That's the entire Morning-Joe man crush in its undistilled essence.

    For a party of largely white, middle-aged male victims, Chris Christie is the anti-bulimic Ann Coulter.

  • DAY on September 26, 2011 9:18 AM:

    Republicans are desperate to beat Obama.
    Desperate people do desperate things.
    Hence, the floundering for some thing, any thing, any ONE!
    (They knew Palin was a loser, but once chosen they lined up in solid support)

  • Captain Dan on September 26, 2011 9:18 AM:

    There have been recent polls that showed that Christie was losing popularity as the governor of New Jersey.

  • Brenna on September 26, 2011 9:23 AM:

    I doubt Christie could legitimately pass the physical to be president. He doesn't look healthy. He can't even walk 150 yards across a field, without a helicopter and a limo. That doesn't inspire confidence. Campaigning alone is exhausting. If he became president, he could probably kick back like George W. though.

  • bigtuna on September 26, 2011 9:30 AM:

    note from the hinterlands. Chirstie's transparent assholeness will not wear well with the dwindling portion of the Republican electorate that likes a veneer of gentility with their over the top stupidness...

  • Kathyn on September 26, 2011 9:32 AM:

    Been wondering why Jeb Bush is not mentioned as often as Christie also. Even though W damaged the Bush brand, if Jeb can't impress in this crowd of incompetents, he's got trouble. Apparently entering this late is problematic, so maybe that's it. Doubt that we've seen the last of the Bushes, they're grooming the next generation, glad I'm too old to see that come to fruition.

  • T2 on September 26, 2011 9:35 AM:

    Like Perry, Christie has gotten by on bluster. However, also like Perry, he isn't universally liked in his own state....actually, he's not liked very much. The nation, and much more importantly, the TeaParty nation doesn't know him at all. From what I've seen of him, his stance on several issues and his "screw you" personality would not fit well in the current TeaParty, which may be why the GOP Establishment is pursuing him. It should be clear to the GOP Establishment by now that they have been usurped by crazed TeaPartiers and stand to be further diminished by following them off a Rick Perry cliff.
    Amid all the clamor for a new face in the race, the silence of the GOP Establishment over Sarah Palin is deafening.

  • jdog on September 26, 2011 9:45 AM:

    Is it not interesting that not a single sitting Senator decided to run? Republican insiders and the media continue to ask governors, but don't give a thought to Senators. Not that there are any with much appeal. And actually, I think, indicates the general weakness of the Republican leadership.

    Republicans were thoroughly repudiated in 2008. They managed to resuscitate themselves by latching onto the Tea Party movement -- itself funded in part by rich funders -- but now have tied themselves to a pretty radical agenda.

    They are remarkably weak, and it a rather precarious position. But so is the entire economic foundation they managed to wreck.

  • Rathskeller on September 26, 2011 9:50 AM:

    • Jeb Bush - capable politician, but has denied any interest. he would evoke national revulsion at another Bush larva infesting the body politic once again. Probably waiting 4 or 8 years.
    • Christie - fat, mean fuck who has alienated his own state. Smart enough to know this, might even win them back.
    • Bloomberg - capable, but he is Jewish, a former Democrat, gay friendly, and from New York. South Carolina would nominate blackity-black Cain over him.
    • Giuliani - spent something like $60mm four years ago to obtain one delegate. Smart enough to read the cards.
    • Fred Thompson - fat, lazy fuck who didn't win a single delegate in 2008. Discovered national office not available just for asking
    • Nikki Haley - capable politician, but has denied any interest. She is smart enough to be interested, but knows she has to raise her national profile to get over her Sikh background. Also, she'll be better off in 4 or 8 years when the scythe of old age takes care of some of the GOP racism issues existing today.

    Those are main possibilities I can think of for 2012. The GOP on the national stage has too many issues, too many shibboleths not to cause some probably sane & smart GOP leaders to wait it out, and hope that this current madness ends like a fever. The GOP has had a honorable career over the past 150 years, even if they are barking mad at this point.

  • Rathskeller on September 26, 2011 9:52 AM:

    Sorry, that looks really weird. fyi - HTML Preview with LI markup doesn't look remotely like what it actually looks like on the site.

  • AMS on September 26, 2011 9:57 AM:

    What makes Republican king-makers think that Chris Christie will be a stronger general election candidate than Mitt Romney? I suspect that outside the Northeast and the political junkie circuit, most Americans have barely heard of him.

    I think what the Republican establishment fears is that the base will not vote for a Mormon in the primaries, giving the nomination to Rick Perry, who will be less electable than Romney in the general for reasons that are becoming abundantly clear.

  • penalcolony on September 26, 2011 10:41 AM:

    “What’s Jeb Bush up to?”

    What, indeed? This morning Chuck Todd said that many of the people pushing a Christie run have strong Bush ties.

    Not every Republican wants Obama to lose. If he did, that would probably finish Jeb as a presidential prospect, since he wouldn't be able to run in 2016, and and by 2020 would be 67 years old and (presumably) out of political office for 14 years -- not to mention (presumably) still fat.

    There's a long history of Bush dirty tricks, and this is likely just the latest chapter.

  • gaardvark on September 26, 2011 11:23 AM:

    ...many GOP officials, fundraisers, powerbrokers, and pundits are still desperately looking for a savior...

    I glad to see recognition that Mark Halperin is a GOP pundit.

  • liam foote on September 26, 2011 12:05 PM:

    First Christie says no, he won't run. Then he says he isn't ready to run. Then he jokes that the only way he can convince people would be to commit suicide. Then he commits political suicide by spending taxpayer dollars to take a NJ helicopter to his son's baseball game. That seems fairly convincing.

  • rrk1 on September 26, 2011 12:13 PM:

    It's hard to imagine Christie being an attractive campaigner anywhere in the country, and while he's a mean bully bent on destroying New Jersey, he isn't completely stupid. Physical appearance has become very important. Scott Brown, anyone?

    Whether calls from the money crowd will seduce him into running remains to be seen, but he does seem to have reasonable and sensible self awareness. He must know he won't get anywhere for all kinds of reasons. Given his lack of popularity in his home state, much like Romney's but for different reasons, and his putative future ambitions, a losing national campaign at this moment would end his political career.

    The people of New jersey will probably end it in any case. And none too soon.

  • bdop4 on September 26, 2011 1:07 PM:

    Actually, I think the less amount of time a republican candidate runs in the primary election, the better.

    Think about it: you come in at the 11th hour, you haven't endorsed one single batshit-crazy teabagger position. The moneyed republicans have already told the teabaggers to STFU and accept whoever they choose.

    You run in the general election on a relatively moderate (in these times) conservative platform and your opposition doesn't have hours and hours of video showing you saying the opposite.

    Yes, logistics would be very difficult, but not as hard as having made hours and hours of insane rightwing campaign promises to teabagger troglydites.

  • majun on September 26, 2011 1:41 PM:

    I'm not much for conspiracy theories, but given the obvious weaknesses of the current field of candidates and the even more obvious strictures that any GOP candidate for the nomination is hobbled by (I'm talking Tea Party wingnut crazy as a loon primary voters here), it appears obvious to me that the money men financing the GOP have to have a "Great White Hope" warming up in the bull pen right now. The main reason I am so certain that it isn't Chris Christie is because of all the hulabaloo over his possible candidacy. I'm sure Snow White and the Seven Dwarves who are running have all been doing oppo research on Christie and will be ready to go on the attack from day one when he steps in, if he steps in. After the collapse of Rick Perry, the 11th Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of a Fellow Republican" seems to be inoperative at the moment.

    The question isn't, will Christie run? The question is, who other than Christie can step into the roll of "Great White Hope"? I'm guessing someone, about whom there has been little speculation, will step in right after South Carolina. Iowa Caucauses are largely irrelevant, as will be NH this year, which will go to Mitt no matter who else is running. And SC is the home of bat-sh!t crazy right wing rhetoric. A well financed candidate with some name recognition who can draw primary votes without going off the deep end will step in to the great relief of the GOP establishment. Gotta be telegenic, above average intelligence, and not associated with the Tea Party, but not someone that the Tea Party rejects out-of-hand.

    The only two candidates that come to mind now are John Thune and Jeb Bush, but I am sure that there are others out there. Both are problematic, but come close enough to filling the bill, certainly closer than Perry, to consider.

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on September 26, 2011 4:16 PM:

    Pssst. I've head it that Christie is running. Pass it on.

    Will the suicide be on pay4view?

  • Tyllis Butane on September 26, 2011 4:56 PM:

    From the looks of it, Rick Perry initially thought running in a National Primary would be as easy as picking off coyotes during a morning jog.

  • Bill on September 27, 2011 12:24 AM:

    Never mind about someone else jumping in.

    Romney is all we need to win the White House.

    It's the economy, stupid, and he's the most qualified for the job on both sides of the aisle.

    Perry is as dumb as dirt, and an illegal alien loving Democrat to the core. An Al Gore kind of supporter.

    Bachmann and her it's the Constitution this and that - sorry - there's way much more to governing a country. Besides, the president plays no formal role with the Constitution - can't vote for, or veto, and amendment or a ratification. It's the job of Congress, where she should stay if she likes the Constitution so much.

    Cain - his wanting to strip the EPA because the EPA wants to control dust - wet the field before discing, to help out with allergies, asthma, and other lung related diseases....... He obviously doesn't look into issues, or think, before throwing something like that out there.

    Gingrich - yes, too much baggage - they will knock him off his high horse versus his falling off of it on his own - ranted about Clinton's affairs, but had a few of his own. People don't like hypocrites.

    Santorum - OK, but he looks too much like a kid's coach looking for the kid's mother's approval with that smile of his.

    Romney has the best schooling and experience for the job - getting america back in business, and he looks presidential.

    Plus, he's not a career politician or a lawyer.