No White House run for New Jersey’s blunt talking Governor – despite huge pressure and weeks of speculation, writes Felicity Spector.
So. A man who wasn’t running for president isn’t running for president and won’t be trying to run for president. Got that? Still awake there, at the back?
In front of the starried ranks of America’s finest political press corps, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie finally put an end to the weeks of frenzied speculation about his White House ambitions. “Now is not my time”, he told reporters. “New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you are stuck with me.”
Clearly relishing his big moment on the national stage, the Governor admitted he had been caught up in the momentum: “When you get into this whirlwind you begin to lose your bearings a little bit”. He’s said to have spent the weekend consulting with aides, and his family, his wife apparently waking him at 6am to say she was fine with him entering the race. But, despite the lure of the world’s most powerful job, he’s staying in Trenton. For now.
New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you are stuck with me. Governor Christie
On cue, as he spoke, a Quinnipac opinion poll projected him to the head of the Republican contenders for the 2012 nomination – yes, a man who wasn’t even in the contest tying for top place with former Masschussetts governor Mitt Romney, who’s been slugging away, spending gazillions of dollars, for months.
And therein lies the problem. For Republicans are clearly so unhappy with the candidates on offer that they’ve been flailing around wildly for someone – heck, anyone – to champion instead.
Hence all the pressure on Christie, a man who’s governed his state for less than two years, who has no national network of supporters, no big-time donors primed to open their wallets and fund a national primary campaign.
But he is a man who’s built a reputation on strong leadership, or as he put it: “lead on the tough issues by telling your citizens the truth about the depth of our challenges. Tell them the truth about the difficulty of the solutions”.
Straight talk, then, for straightened times. Although not everyone’s painted him as a dream candidate. This week it wasn’t his actual policies attracting all the hot air, perish the thought. No, the pundits were all universally agreed: Chris Christie is just too fat to be the leader of the free world. The man himself was typically blunt: “It’s not news to me that I’m overweight. You gotta know who you are in this life”. But image is everything, as ABC News gravely intoned: “study after study shows that people judge the hefty more harshly than they judge those who are thin”.
It’s not news to me that I’m overweight. Governor Christie
Still, another day, another saviour beckons. Rumour has it that Sarah Palin’s lawyers have been suddenly asking for details of filing deadlines. Last week’s rising star, Texas Governor Rick Perry is fading fast, thanks to a lacklustre debate performance and a mini-scandal over a racially offensive slogan outside a hunting camp leased by his family.
Governor Christie managed to enjoy 43 minutes of live television to make his non-announcement about his non-run. Republicans? Now is the time to come to the aid of your party. You have nothing to lose but your deposit.
Felicity Spector is the US politics expert for Channel 4 News. Follow her on Twitter @felicityspector