GOP intelligentsia's latest hope: Waiting (again) on Christie?

Thoughout the buildup to this weekend's event, we were told (such as in William March's front-page Tampa Tribune story on Friday) that in the three previous Florida Republican party straw polls, the winner had gone on to win the nomination. However the last time that happened was 15 years ago, back in 1996 when Bob Dole was the victor. So it's not like there has been this grand tradition, as Florida Republican officials have aspired it to be.


Rick Perry was the big loser, but is it over for him? One would think that's absurd, but that's what many conservative thinkers are saying, as they clamor once again for another candidate, with the consensus fantasy draft pick being New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.


On her blog housed at WashingtonPost.com, Jennifer Rubin reports that Christie is still contemplating a candidacy:


Christie, according to those I spoke to since the debate and who are familiar with his thinking, is meeting with a variety of donors, officials and Republican insiders. The pressure has increased on him both privately and in public to enter the race. He has no “Mitch Daniels” problem, that is, a wife who would forbid his run. (“Mary Pat has always supported whatever the governor wants to do,” said a source.) This was not a grand scheme; there was no coy strategy over the year. But events have changed. The primary front-runner has faltered, conservatives are looking for an alternative and he remains the sole alternative to Romney who would instantaneously draw donors, media attention and support from all facets of a center-right coalition. Moreover, as the chances of a GOP winner increase, conservatives recognize that there is perhaps a once-in-a-century opportunity to field a candidate who can win and govern with conservative conviction.


He would need to make up his mind by month’s end to make primary filing dates. If he decides to jump in, he is the one Republican of these three who most closely tracks the job description I laid out above. He went to Trenton and took on an entrenched mentality of tax and spend and borrow (refusing to sign a millionaire’s tax); faced down public- employee unions (for teachers and others); engaged with forceful media (his press conferences have become YouTube hits) and convinced the public of needed sacrifices (by making the case for and getting passed reform of retirement and health benefits). He did all that in a blue state.


On Fox News Sunday, conservative pundits Brit Hume and William Kristol were asked by moderator Chris Wallace if the press was being unfair at all to Governor Perry, and what about Governor Christie's chances?


HUME: I don't think we're being too harsh on Rick Perry. He still has some opportunity to recover his balance and put in a strong performance.


What was so strikingly troubling about, from a Republican point of view, about this performance was that Perry was thought of as a really true conservative. Now it appears he's got this position on immigration which is anathema to a lot of conservatives. So this really hurts him with the base.


You can't — you know, look at all the trouble Romney has had. He's got some trouble with the base. That's what's holding him back. Now Perry has got the same trouble, so his weakness is very real indeed.


As for whether someone else might get in the race, you can't rule anything out. It is still early, but what keeps happening here is these people have a moment, and they get in the race, as Perry did, zoom to the top, everybody's in love, and then we get a dose of them in reality, on the debate stage or wherever, and they don't seem so great.


Now, I'm as impressed as the next person is by Governor Christie's sort of tough love governance in New Jersey. But who knows how he would fare on the national stage? He can arrive freshly minted from a governorship, having not spent all that much time on national and international issues. He gets on a debate stage, he could screw up as badly as the next guy.


WALLACE: I want to — we just have a little time left, and I want to go to you, Bill.


HUME: And how conservative is he really?


WALLACE: Because I have been teasing you. But what is wrong — I mean, let's assume that Perry has — and I think he's demonstrated some vulnerabilities. What's so bad about Mitt Romney?


KRISTOL: Nothing is so bad about Mitt Romney. But, you know, this is a very big year, 2012. The country is in really deep trouble, and I think it's an open question.


Mitt Romney is a technocrat. He's a skillful technocrat. Does he have the vision, does he have the boldness to advance the kind of reform agenda that I at least would want?


I don't think it's a matter of being quite more or less conservative. I think Rick Perry's position on allowing graduates at Texas high schools, even if they're illegal immigrants, to go to college with in-state is defensible. The problem is, he didn't defend it.


And Mitt Romney, what is he doing? He's attacking it.


I mean, really, look at Mitt Romney. Does Mitt Romney really believe that they be allowed to go to — have in-state tuition if they graduate from El Paso High?


WALLACE: Well, he vetoed it in Massachusetts.


KRISTOL: Right, because he was planning to run for president. Does he really believe you can build a 1,200-mile fence on the border? He's not really showing, I would say, presidential level leadership, and his 59-point economic plan doesn't seem to be up to the moment.


We don't know how Chris Christie would be, as Brit says, as presidential candidate. I would just like to see some of these guys try. You know?


And Chris Christie would be a big — I've said this before, and I've said this to him, and he's good natured enough to laugh at me and not knock me out — he would be a big man for a big job.


In today's Wall Street Journal, Christie advisers insist he's still not running.

Chris Christie still thinking of getting in the race?
  • Chris Christie still thinking of getting in the race?

Herman Cain's upset victory in the Florida straw poll on Saturday wasn't taken that seriously by the Sunday morning pundits. You could consider than an insult to the former Godfather's pizza CEO, or just an infatuation with the news that the Rick Perry candidacy could possibly be on the rocks.

But before anything other verdict is declared, a little perspective.

The straw poll consisted of the votes of 2,657 Florida Republican activists, people who live politics, and found the time and money to become a delegate to attend Saturday's vote.

Significant? Michelle Bachmann was the Iowa Straw Poll just a little more than a month ago, and her candidacy is now being declared dead by virtually everyone (she finished last in the P-5 survey Saturday).

As we posted on Saturday night, a bit of a loser in all of this is Governor Rick Scott, for getting swept up in the pre Presidency 5 hype, saying that the winner of the straw poll would win the nomination for President.

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