With the startling victory of Herman Cain in the Florida straw poll, the floundering performance of Rick Perry in recent debates, and the perpetual lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney whatever he does, the GOP primary contest remains as unsettled as ever and ripe for the entrance of a new challenger seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Will New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answer history’s clarion call and “throw his hat into the ring”?
Christie publicly and repeatedly has denied he's running.
Late in the day on Friday, Newsmax broke the story that Christie recently met with a highly influential group of wealthy Republican Party donors eager for him to run.
Our story has been confirmed by numerous other media. On Monday, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean told Fox that Christie is indeed considering a run for president in 2012.
Fast on the heels of the Newsmax story, Ari Fleischer, former President Bush’s press secretary, added more weight to a potential Christie run when he reported via Twitter that “the money people are telling Christie he can’t win re-election in New Jersey, so he needs to run for President of the United States. It’s now or never, they’re telling him.”
The significant financial players in the GOP like Christie for one key reason: He has a track record of taking on the public employees unions and beating them.
From their perspective, Christie’s record is particularly praiseworthy because he was able to marshal the support of Democrats in Jersey's very blue state Legislature (many of them strongly pro-union) in his successful reform fight that saved billions in pension costs for the taxpayers.
To those who want Christie to run, his persuasive leadership style is reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan’s, who won the support of congressional Democrats in the early 1980s by the strength of his arguments, his communication skills, and the backing of the American people.
Winning Democratic support was an essential step in Reagan's successful mission to revitalize the United States.
Christie’s supporters believe he has a much better chance of winning Democratic support for a robust reform agenda than any other GOP candidate, including Mitt Romney.
These considerations are academic, of course, unless Christie can win his party’s nomination. To do that, he must first win the base of the party, the segment closely identified with the tea party movement.
The backing of GOP billionaires will help him, but money isn’t everything, as Mitt Romney learned during the 2008 primary contest. He had more money than either John McCain or Mike Huckabee, but both outperformed him in the end.
But Christie isn’t Romney. He is a blunt, plain-speaking leader who, love him or hate him, is authentic — a priceless quality that in itself resonates with a large portion of the American electorate, especially the independents who ultimately determine presidential elections.
Although his “say-what-I-mean” personality also should attract the tea party element, it is difficult to see Christie or any latecomer in the GOP race winning Iowa.
But New Hampshire, where independents are allowed to vote in the state’s Republican primary, could be a more likely launching pad for Christie if he does, in fact, run. John McCain began his ascent to party victory here in 2008, and he did not have the financial resources that Christie is likely to have if he enters the race.
Money can’t turn a weak candidate into a strong one, but it can propel a strong candidate forward over big obstacles.
If Christie's supporters signed on with the idea that he would lose any number of early state primaries, viewing the race like a marathon rather than a sprint, he could take his battle to the convention and win.
This would not be unprecedented. In 1976, Ronald Reagan lost the first six nominating contests to Gerald Ford before he finally won the North Carolina primary in late March. Despite his slow start, he nearly wrested the nomination from Ford, the sitting president of the United States.
As with candidate Obama in 2008, candidate Christie’s toughest task will be to win the nomination contest within his own party.
With the economy expected to continue to stagnate or deteriorate further leading up to late 2012, he will benefit from an electorate eager for new, decisive leadership.
One thing is certain: If Chris Christie does win the White House next year, it won’t be unprecedented.
A century ago, another New Jersey governor rose like a rocket to national prominence and reached the White House after only two brief years in Trenton. His name was Woodrow Wilson, elected in 1912.
The official betting has been that Christie won't run. Even if he doesn't, the sudden interest in Christie shows that the race is wide open and that a real path exists for a latecomer to snatch the nomination and give Barack Obama the challenge of his political life next year.
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