Well there you have it, Republican Governor Chris Christie has decided not to run for president in 2012. This will certainly be a let down for many in the G.O.P. but in reality it probably doesn’t matter all that much anyway. For one thing, as political columnist E.J. Dionne opined on last week’s Meet the Press, Christie was being pushed to run by moderate and liberal Republicans in the New York metropolitan area and by the media conservative pundits who have invested mightily in a multiyear campaign of opposition to President Obama and have been opining about beating him since the midnight of election day 2008. Chris Christie was never a darling of the radicalized right and at this point its unknowable as to whether or not he would have fared better with the Republican radicals than has Mitt Romney. Republican strategist Mike Murphy who also appeared on Meet the Press said: “Christie might not do well upon a second and third look-over by the Republican base.” Likewise conservative commentator Peggy Noonan claimed that there was no guarantee that Christie would find it “smooth sailing” when he came up against the Tea Party element within the G.O.P.
For one thing there’s the question of just how far to the right Chris Christie would be willing to tack in order to gain the acceptance of the G.O.P.’s most stridently conservative members. Remember that Christie is a blue state governor who while having pushed through some very tough measures did so without the divisive conflict that erupted in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin or that’s currently bubbling under the surface of John Kasich’s Ohio. Christie has also shown that he can work with Democrats rather than just assume the position of being an obstructionist. Lastly, unemployment is higher in New Jersey, 9.4% in August of 2011, than it is nationally and that undercuts any claim Christie could make about solving the jobs problem.
So where does this leave us. Well for one thing it leaves Mitt Romney in a better position than he was this morning and it may resurrect the hopes of Rick Perry to some degree. But in the final analysis what I think you’ll find is that due to the closing window of opportunity that now confronts the 2012 Republican hopefuls the stage is now set for the intra-party battle between the Tea Party radicals and the old line Republican establishment over whether or not it will be Romney or Perry. Sure there are those who are hoping that Christie’s reluctance will spring Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush to action but that’s just so much wishful thinking on the part of those who are unhappy with the two front runners. Then there’s a last chance bid by Sarah Palin, but again that’s just more wishful thinking. In fact as it regards Palin, it’s hoping beyond hope for a solution as Palin is unelectable and everyone including Palin knows that. Thus why bother with further postulations as to whether or not a Palin candidacy is a viable alternative.
Quoting New York Magazine’s political writer John Heilemann, “Conservatives want someone to beat Obama to a bloody pulp. They see this as their moment.” Well whether or not either Perry or Romney can “beat Obama to a bloody pulp” remains to be seen but if the rank and file of American conservativism had believed that either of them could, they would have never sought the candidacy of Christie in the first place. Nor would they be still hoping for Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush as well. That said it seems that America’s conservatives are going to have to settle for a candidate rather than to be able to hone and fashion their own 2012 Achilles. Needless to say both Perry, due to his past track record of controversial remarks, and Romney, due to his more moderate cast both have Achilles heals of their own to worry about and along with that fact so do the conservatives.