Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey keeps saying he won't run for president in 2012-and then doing something that gives his fans hope. Take last night's breathlessly-awaited talk at the Reagan Library.
Observing that Christie had closed the door to a run, while leaving open a crack, John Podhoretz comments on the content:
Christie is a Republican governor with a Democratic Legislature. And he said, proudly, that "our bipartisan accomplishments in New Jersey have helped to set a tone that has taken hold across many other states.
"It is a simple but powerful message — lead on the tough issues by telling your citizens the truth about the depth of our challenges."
But in Washington, he said, the very principle of "American exceptionalism" is being betrayed by politicians who refuse to live up to the responsibilities of serious governance our Constitution demands of them and of us.
The politician he blamed the most was President Obama, whom he devastatingly dubbed a "bystander."
In speaking this way, Christie certainly laid out an interesting course for a presidential bid — one that would seek to appeal to those primary voters who want a government that can function, not just the most ideologically conservative government imaginable.
Were Christie to run, therefore, he wouldn't be running to fill the hardline-conservative slot now held so shakily by Rick Perry. He would be running on his own star power and with his own message to conservatives: I get things done, and I would agree with you most of the time … pretty much.
Will the reluctant debutante be persuaded?
Who knows? But whether Christie enters to race or not, the GOP has a great field.
I agree with Byron York's contention that, though the pundits and GOP elites may be unhappy about the candidates, it's a myth that GOP voters are:
"I do not know of any widespread unhappiness," says pollster Scott Rasmussen. "Our polling shows that the vast majority of Republicans still are not certain how they would vote, but that's a sign that it's still very early in the process, not a sign of unhappiness."
"I'm not sure I've seen any," says Republican pollster David Winston. "There is this sense that since we haven't gotten to a clear, decisive winner, then that means there must be dissatisfaction. But it could mean that people are still thinking it through."
Anecdotal impressions support what the pollsters say. I have been in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida in recent weeks and talked with a lot of voters. While a few are unhappy with their choices — there are always some voters who feel that way — there just does not seem to be much overall dissatisfaction with the field. Voters realize there is no perfect candidate in the race — that might be an understatement this time around — but that doesn't mean they believe there is some perfect candidate out there over the horizon, waiting to enter the race.
Don't let the elites and the media talk you into malaise-this is an exciting time, and the GOP debates aren't boring. Moreover, we are seeing a winnowing process that is valuable in selecting the right person to make a case for limited government, prosperity, and a sure and certain trumpet in foreign affairs.
May the best man or woman win.