There’s a lot of talk in conservative circles about Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. Look up some videos of him taking tough questions at town hall meetings- solid, compassionate, rational answers. He’s making tough calls, cutting the budget– the things politicians say they’ll do but normally don’t.
From what I’ve seen I like Christie a lot. But he has said repeatedly that he won’t run in 2012, and that’s the right call for a few reasons.
- Experience. When conservatives criticized President Obama in 2008, pointing out that he had done very little but run for president, we were right. The fact that he was elected doesn’t change that. Being a governor for half a term doesn’t qualify you for the highest elected office in the country. Were Christie to begin running in the next few months, it would also suggest that he was never serious about being governor; that he used his state as a stepping-stone to higher office.
- An unfortunate liability. Christie is a big guy. Sadly, this is a real factor. Presidential candidates are constantly visible, and the Republican nominee in particular will be ruthlessly mocked for anything people can find. (Medical conditions are no exception– see Cheney, Richard.) An overweight, middle-aged white man standing next to President Obama at a debate will not sell well.
- Likelihood of winning. This is a factor for any Republican. Obama will probably be reelected. But it’s even more a factor for Christie because of 1 and 2 above. He’s also pretty young– he’ll only be 54 in 2016. He can afford to wait this one out.
Here’s what Christie should do, in my opinion:
- Stay the course. He’s getting results in New Jersey, and people are noticing. He should keep on it, get reelected, and run on a solid record of achievement in 2016.
- Keep your face out there, but not too much. Show up in interviews and op-eds every now and then, without looking like a publicity hound. Remember, the main thing is to be the governor of New Jersey. This builds the no-nonsense, work horse image.
- Turn the liability into an asset. Hire a dietician and trainer, and quietly lose 50 lbs (or whatever). Not only does it remove the problem, it becomes an inspiring personal narrative. (Note: do not go on Oprah and cry about losing weight. At that point you lose my vote.) It demonstrates discipline, self-control, and other attributes we want in the White House. If he’s comfortable enough with it, it could even become part of the stump speech– “The budget needs to slim down, just like I did. I got results in my own waistline, I got results in New Jersey, and I’ll get results in DC!”