It's another day of ChristieWatch, and another day of "will he or won't he?" New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the larger-than-life Republican who's literally being begged by GOP leaders to enter the 2012 presidential election and save the party from Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, told a local crowd Friday that while his state may have problems, the country has even bigger issues to contend with, hinting that America might benefit from his services more than his home state. And several people close to Christie confirm that he's reversed his position and is now seriously considering running.
I've been saying for months now and I will keep insisting that Christie will toss his hat into the ring, and maybe even early this week. And given the weak economy; high unemployment; Obama's plummeting popularity among blue collar whites, Hispanics and seniors; Rick Perry's implosion; and a general disdain for Mitt Romney, the timing could never be better for him.
The conventional wisdom is that Christie's sitting this one out and is instead waiting for 2016. But that election could be a lot more difficult for Christie, with the challenge summed up in two words: Jeb Bush. The popular former Florida governor and a member of the Bush dynasty, which gave us two presidents named George, is the party favorite and has patiently waited his turn, focusing on 2016 in an open battle for the Oval Office.
There are other factors that could make '16 much more difficult for Christie.
For one, the national economy could be in a significantly better place by then. Economies are cyclical, and it's more likely than not that we'll be in a solid recovery with 3-5% annual GDP growth, unemployment around 6%, a strong housing market and consumer confidence in the 80's, almost double what it is today.
Additionally, Christie won't be the star-dusted new kid on the block anymore. By then he'll be into his second term as governor with a meaningful track record to scrutinize, and it may not be pretty. Remember, Jersey's economy remains weak and suffers from higher unemployment than the national average at 9.5%. And Christie's got a very big, abrasive mouth that's gotten him into trouble. The next four years could be a public relations nightmare for him if he's not verbally disciplined.
If Christie's smart, he'll realize his time is now. He'll strike when the iron is hot, not when he prefers there be an iron. And, I'd bet dollars to donuts that his running mate will ultimately be Florida's junior Sen. Marco Rubio, a Tea Party rock star, highly popular among his fellow Hispanics and who hails from a critical swing state. In appealing to blue collar whites, seniors, Hispanics and independents, a Christie/Rubio ticket would be very formidable opposition to President Obama. And if things don't markedly improve in the economy, it very well could be a winning ticket.
So keep on eye on The Big Man. The political landscape will never be more fertile for him than it is now. And if he does run, Sarah Palin won't. She knows he'd eat her alive, and I suspect she's waiting for him to make his decision before she announces hers. If he doesn't run, I still think she will, taking on a weakened Perry and Michele Bachmann for the Tea Party vote.