Friday, September 30, 2011

Christie's Future

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will spend the weekend considering whether to declare his candidacy for president. Should he enter the GOP race he will have committed one of the biggest flip-flops ever, and many Americans will be asking, "What changed?"

For months the governor has been adamant that he will not run for the White House in 2012. Up to now the governor has repeatedly said on television, "I am not ready to be president." Should he declare his candidacy he will be seeing that soundbite in a lot of campaign commercials.

But now what has changed is the intensity with which supporters and some leading party members are clamoring for him to enter the race. It seems that many Republicans are not happy with their existing field of candidates.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has retaken the top spot in some polls of declared GOP candidates. A recent Fox News poll shows his support at 23%, which is about where it was two months ago. Despite his strong debate performances and tireless campaigning, Romney has not been able to win over most Republicans. It seems that "RomneyCare", his track record of changing positions on key issues and the fact he is a Mormon are all dragging him down among conservative party members.

Following his announcement in August, Texas Governor Rick Perry surged in polls to a commanding lead among Republican candidates. He quickly became the darling of conservatives and Tea Party members. But a series of poor debate performances and increased scrutiny of his record has rocked his campaign and dampened enthusiasm for his candidacy.

Businessman Herman Cain got a bump up to third place in this week's polls following his solid debate performance in Orlando, Florida. But his "9-9-9" plan for the American economy is more of a clever marketing pitch than a realistic solution to this nation's woes. Meanwhile, the rest of the field is mired in single digits and none are likely get their party's nomination.

Republicans believe they can defeat President Barack Obama in 2012, the number one priority of the party since he was elected. Whoever gets the nomination will campaign against the president's economic record, his health care reform act and his inability to end partisan politics in Washington. Their only dilemma is finding the right candidate.

So many key Republicans are pressuring Governor Christie because they believe he can unite the party and win over independent voters. The governor has only been if office two years but he has received a lot of attention because of his straight-talking brash style. Critics call him a bully. The governor has taken on the teachers' unions and he has balanced two budgets after eliminating huge deficits by working with a Democratic majority in the New Jersey legislature.

But is the governor ready for relentless national scrutiny? The unemployment rate in New Jersey is 9.5%, above the national rate, and the state's economy is struggling. The governor has no experience in foreign affairs and few, if any, relationships with international leaders.

Meanwhile, late night comedians are already making fun of the governor's weight. David Letterman reported to his audience, "Critics are saying he doesn't have fire in his belly, that's all he doesn't have in his belly." And political columnists are also raising the weight issue. Take Michael Kinsley, "I'm sorry, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cannot be president: He is just too fat." Will Governor Christie's weight be too much of a distraction? Will he be able to conduct a rigorous campaign?

Meanwhile, conservatives are not going to be happy with some of the governor's positions. On gun control the governor has said New Jersey has a "handgun problem" and that he supports some gun-control measures. On immigration he has said that being in the country without proper papers is an "administrative matter," not a crime. When critics howled because the governor appointed a Muslim lawyer to be a New Jersey Superior Court judge, he snapped, "I'm tired of dealing with the crazies."

Running for president is incredibly difficult, and a candidate has to go all out to have a chance of winning. But will Governor Christie be able to run for president and run New Jersey at the same time?

If he chooses to run for president, Governor Christie will have to answer questions regarding his background, his performance in office, his weight and his positions on key issues. Perhaps Governor Christie should carefully reconsider his own words, "I am not ready to be president."

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