The decision by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (bats right/eats left) not to enter the Republican presidential sweepstakes will leave unanswered some super-sized questions about national politics:
Would American taxpayers have been willing to pay for the installation of double wide seats on Air Force One? Could Christie have made working out with the knife and the fork the latest fitness craze? Would he have been the first president since William Howard Taft to get wedged in the White House bathtub?
But enough with the fat jokes: Calbuzz doesn’t have much standing to hurl outsized insults.
As the Beltway pundit class loses its latest obsession and the governor of girth returns to Trenton, onetime capital of the nation, to ponder weighty matters like a tax break for Snooki, a few blinding insights on l’affaire Christie:
1-The biggest losers in the deal are the Republican elites, from Karl Rove and Bill Kristol to Mitch Daniels and Rupert Murdoch, who saw in Christie a strong Obama challenger who could bridge the gap between Tea Party mad dogs and the GOP silk stocking establishment of big donors, policy intellectuals and Washington officeholders.
Now these would-be kingmakers once again are stuck with an unhappy choice between a nominal but weak front-runner, in the oleaginous person of Mitt Romney, who’s viewed as a retrograde RINO by the arch right-wingers who will dominate the Republican primary electorate, and his flawed chief foil, the increasingly embarrassing Rick Perry, whose rants against Social Security, Sarah Palin-style shallowness and excessive evangelicalism would be tough to translate for a general election audience of normal people.
As a practical matter, this means that you can look for establishment types to grit their teeth and start singing the praises of His Mittness, as the loathsome David Brooks did in the Times on Monday, while cajoling Tea Partiers, whose energy and enthusiasm they need to recapture the White House, with the argument that anybody’s better than Obama.
2-The biggest winner is Perry, whose recent practice of firing both barrels at his own feet have sent him plummeting in the polls, but who now has an opening to reboot and reintroduce himself to GOP voters, starting with next week’s WashPost debate in New Hampshire.
Other beneficiaries of Christie’s retreat are the hang-around half-dozen of the Republican field, going nowhere candidates who all will doubtless see a fresh chance to step over Perry and take on the role of chief rival to Romney.
It’s hard to take anyone in this crowd too seriously, but it’s remotely possible, if you squint really, really hard, to see how Jon Huntsman could conceivably rise, if he can ever stop sleepwalking and telling jokes that no one understands, and how the repulsive Rick Santorum could yet become the favorite of the pitchfork crowd, based on his Medieval moral views and ability to speak in complete sentences.
Beyond that, not so much: Bachmann’s toast, as we were among the first to report, Newt is running for the exercise and Ron Paul is, well, Ron Paul. The only hope for Herman Cain, currently enjoying his 15 fame-filled minutes as flavor of the week, is that millions of Republicans remarkably join Sarah Palin in confusing him with the late great Old Chronicle three-dot columnist Herb Caen.
3-The least affected player is probably Romney. He’s likely to pick up a few bucks from some of Christie’s would-be donors, but fundamentally is neither better nor worse off than before the announcement. In for the long haul, the guy just won’t go away, reminding us of one of those grotesque beach toys that bounces right back – barrrrong – no matter how hard you punch it.
Romney’s serious problems remain the same: a) that little key sticking out of his back, with which his handlers wind him up every morning; b) his failure to go around the country in a state of constant spittle-flecked rage at anyone who disagrees with the Tea Party, a shortcoming that constantly infuriates the Tea Party; c) the social conservative base of the GOP.
There are plenty of reasons why Mittless has never been able to garner more than a quarter of the vote in polls of Republicans (the phrase “insufferable phony” comes to mind) but the biggest – and all but unspoken – factor is that he’s …shh…a Mormon, and so unacceptable to the Bachmann-Perry witch-burning crowd, which firmly believes his religion is a cult (also see Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook, “A Comparison of Christianity with Major Religions and Cults” p. 296).
For all his flip-flops and hair splitting on issues from abortion to health care and taxes, Romney’s most fundamental problem with the hardcore Republican right-wing is one he can’t do much about, short of disembarking in Salt Lake City to burn his Temple garment in front of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to the accompaniment of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
P.S. Before we forget, there’s one more big winner in this deal: Chris Christie, who would have peaked the moment he announced his candidacy, after which the Republican cuckoo caucus would have turned to trashing his heretical views on climate change science and gun control, along with his weak-kneed willingness to negotiate compromises with Democrats.
Smart move, governor.