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Is Christie to Reverse Course?

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Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to reverse course, offer himself for the GOP Presidential nomination? Some heavy-money Republicans want him to and are not bashful about saying so, at least in private. It's a sure-fire signal that many party leaders feel their nominating process has become a circus.

Now the odds against Christie jumping into the race are as long as the line to get on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon, but the fact that anyone is seriously talking about it now is all about one emotion: desperation. Their reasoning: Romney has proved to be a weaker candidate and more vulnerable than expected, Santorum they consider to be un-electable, and Gingrich -- whom they neither like nor trust -- is seen as barely breathing as a candidate. Christie considered getting in at the start, but demurred and has since officially supported Romney. He has not said or done anything indicating that he has reconsidered or is willing to do so. But with Romney
wilting, Santorum surging, Gingrich fading and Ron Paul considered to be far too maverick, the refrain of "let's get Christie" is being heard increasingly in private in Republican corridors of power.

Christie's appeal, from the beginning and now, is that he appeals to both traditional, mainstream Republicans and Tea Partyers alike -- someone who could unite the party, which neither Romney, Santorum nor Gingrich is currently believed capable of doing. He is also a blunt, "tell-it-like-it-is" and sometimes eloquent firebrand of "conservative" speaker. He comes across as authentic. An intelligent, crafty street-fighter of a candidate who also plays well in boardrooms, and is a campaign money-raising machine.

Many Wall Street and boondocks Republicans alike have long believed Christie is the ideal man to beat Obama, staunch in the belief that he not only would carry his home swing-state of New Jersey, but would also be the difference in key industrial states of the Midwest -- plus ensure
up-for-grabs southern border states.

However, Christie is only a first-term governor, untested on the national scene and unknown to most people outside the Northeast. He is, too, vastly overweight, raising questions about his health and durability for a long, grueling Presidential campaign. His stated reason for not becoming a candidate earlier was that he just didn't feel that this year is his time. Speculation has been rampant that he plans an all-out drive for the Presidency in 2016 should the GOP
fail this cycle.

But some long-time Republican major money contributors and self-styled power brokers, now disappointed with and fearful for Romney, are concerned that the GOP is in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory this year. So the rumble begins anew for Christie.

Their scenario: Romney loses to Santorum in Michigan and Christie should jump in. Or, Romney staggers on, goes to the nominating convention this summer, but lacking enough delegate votes for nomination; the convention vote becomes competitive (with the nomination "brokered") and Christie swoops in as a uniter and savior. Fantasy? A bridge too far? Maybe. In my estimation, probably. But it's interesting that this kind of talk is picking up among some
Republicans who matter. At the very least, it gives one an insight into just how much of the hibbie-jibbies GOP powers have about how the race for the nomination has developed (or disintegrated?) so far.

Michigan is key for Romney. If he wins there next week he will somewhat stabilize his campaign and quieten the Christie rumbling. Especially if he can also take Arizona the same day. Should Romney lose Michigan -- to say nothing if he loses both -- he will be reeling and the "let's get Christie" chorus will grow louder.

Postscript: Remnants of the Bush legions still have hopes for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush winding up with the nomination, particularly if Christie holds fast to holding out. An even more far-fetched dream? Yes, but in this strange nominating season it's prudent never to say never.

Dan Rather Reports airs Tuesdays on HDNet at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET. This program is available on iTunes. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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