In a normal election cycle, the talk of a run for president by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be nothing more than table talk, idle chatter indulged with the knowledge that the Republican Party abides by traditions and rules and thus usually nominates the next candidate in line.
However, it’s already established that in 2012, even if there was a front-runner to challenge President Obama, which there isn’t, there will be no anointings given simply for paying dues. Not at this moment, not with these stakes and this president.
But while the cautions to Christie against running are strong, and come from those within the GOP who profess nothing but admiration for him, it may be the time and place where even the usually unbreakable argument that a reformist governor cannot be taken seriously if he left his job undone could be dissembled and disregarded.
Talk to those close to Christie, and they are fully aware that much of the governor’s magnetism comes from his singular focus on one set of issues in one particular job: his.
“Step one is to do the best job he can in turning the state around and making it a home for growth,” said Bob Grady, an economic adviser to Christie and veteran of President George H.W. Bush’s White House. “Step two is, if people think he’s done a good job at that, the first thing he would consider is running for reelection, which would be in 2013. And go from there.”
But talk to another confidante and supporter of the governor, and there is the recognition that even the most ironclad promises by Christie – that there is “zero chance” he will run in 2012 – could be overwhelmed by the call of history.
“People always are leery that something could change,” said Bill Palatucci, a former law partner of Christie’s and close friend, who in July became a committee member of the Republican National Committee representing New Jersey.
“So yeah, I think that’s in the back of everyone’s minds that even the most Shermanesque statement could be retracted,” Palatucci said. “That said, most people have also come to know that when this guy says something, he means it.”
“No one gets the sense that he is playing a game here,” Palatucci continued. “They believe him. But they also know that politics is politics and things down the road could change.”
The hidden subtext to their comments, in addition, is that the best way for Christie to run for president is to not run. His best chances are in doing what he has been doing, namely, taking on all comers, racking up wins with straight talk rarely seen in politics, and not really caring too much what people think of him.
Grady himself added: “I do think the people of the state appreciate him taking on the tough choices … it’s an example of what we need to do in the rest of the country.”