Election giant under Republican noses?
The Republican Party‘s search for a candidate who can beat Barack Obama resembles a medieval prince’s quest for his ideal princess. There is no shortage of suitors. They are a varied and intriguing bunch. But so far none of them quite fits the bill.
This matters increasingly as Republicans are convinced that the next election is becoming theirs to lose since the economy shows no sign of improving in the next year and, if anything, may take a turn for the worse. So where are we with those suitors?
Mitt Romney is so chiseled, prosperous, accomplished and, thanks to his Mormon faith, toxin free, that he comes across as extra-terrestrial. Despite recent flashes of human humour one is not 100 per cent certain that an incision will produce actual blood.
Rick Perry is the exact opposite. He embodies the terrestrial. With his heavy gait he looks as if he is remorselessly rooted to the hot dusty soil of the state he has been running since 2000. Perry is so genuinely Texan he makes George W Bush look like a son of Islington. The former president was famous for shooting from the hip and missing. The words were mangled. The grammar was twisted. There was a lot of verbal collateral damage.
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Perry, by contrast, is a rhetorical self-harmer. He aims to shoot himself in the foot, as his persistent gaffes on social security and immigration seem to suggest. That’s why that shadowy army of Republican fundraisers is still casting around. They like the fact that Perry seems comfortable in his own hide. They appreciate his Conservatism. Texas has done well and so what if its success has been lubricated by oil. But they are afraid that Perry will self destruct like one of those creatures in Men in Black.
That leaves the governor of the state that my train has just been gliding through, New Jersey. Chris Christie has long been the man that the grand old men of the Grand Old Party yearn to see enter the race.
The swash-buckling, benefit-slashing, blunt-speaking Irish-Italian American took on corrupt state officials as an attorney and is taking on public sector unions from teachers to firefighters as a governor. His town hall performances are an electric mixture of self deprecating humour, diatribe and emotion. He is the anti-Obama.
He can make complicated issues sound simple without being simplistic. And he weighs, at a rough estimate, about 280 pounds. His girth adds to his appeal. It makes him look reassuringly authentic at a time when inauthenticity is the biggest enemy of politics. Christie uses an inhaler. He huffs and puffs up stairs like much of the rest of the country.
The days of the early morning televised jog are over. Voters want a leader who combats his problems the way they do: with an assault on comfort food. There is only one problem with Governor Christie’s march to the White House. So far he says he’s not taking part. But as the “draft Christie for president” crowd gets more insistent, richer and more pleading the governor may well reconsider. Watch this space. There is a lot of it.
Follow @mattfrei on Twitter.