Here’s a message to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: take care of business or get off the pot. This "will you or will you not run for President" story has to end — now. Your indecision is hurting the Republican Party, and, ironically, giving Barack Obama a much needed reprieve. The time for games is over…it’s In or Out.
Republican Christie is a firebrand, an extremely effective governor who has done what few thought possible in Jersey: reform bloated pensions, institute public-sector union reforms, and balance the budget without raising taxes. And all that was accomplished while dealing with solid Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers — and a Senate President who is a card-carrying union member. It doesn’t get any more bipartisan, and miraculous, than that.
But more than anything, Christie’s hallmark is his brusque, straightforward style. He truly tells it like it is, from state finances ("the state is going to go broke" without reform) to yelling at people to "get the hell off the beach" before an impending hurricane.
Sure, his style is interpreted by some as in-your-face bullying, but the reality is that Christie is far from a rude person. He is simply expressing himself and his beliefs in a concise, matter-of-fact way. And in politics, that is extremely rare.
Most endearing to folks is that Christie speaks from the heart — no teleprompters or note cards. Because of that passion, his sometimes aggressive style belies an extremely articulate leader, one whose charisma has won over more than a few adversaries. People may not always agree with Chris Christie, but they always know where he stands. As a result, he has become a national figure precisely because he embodies what the American people crave: a leader refusing to dance the Political Two-Step and avoid tough issues.
The Governor made a keynote speech this week at the Ronald Reagan Library in California — an event that was covered extensively by the national media. It provided the golden opportunity to end speculation, once and for all, about presidential ambitions for 2012. In one fell swoop, Christie could have told the country of his intentions, and, in that unmistakable Christie way, put an exclamation point on his decision so that no one would question him again.
But he didn’t. Instead, he left the door wide open.
In doing so, for the first time, he looked…political. Dare we say it, but it almost seemed like he was doing the Trenton Shuffle.
And that’s not the Chris Christie we know.
His past statements that he is not running for president are meaningless. All politicians say such things, and it was too early in the process for even Chris Christie to be wholly believed. But it’s a totally different ballgame now. The primary elections begin in just four months, which is barely enough time to raise money, organize a campaign team and execute a ground game.
Could Christie overcome such obstacles this late in the game? Absolutely — but only if he announces within the next few days. Should he ultimately not run, however, the problem with his non-decision is that it’s hurting the only two Republicans with a shot at the nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney (as no other Republican could realistically enter, and win, the race).
Because of the Christie-factor, significant uncertainty remains among Republican powerbrokers, donors, elected officials, GOP-leaning organizations and grassroots Party faithful. Instead of a clear-cut race, the battle lines remain blurred, so many of these folks are waiting it out on the sidelines, withholding money, effort and endorsements until Christie makes a decision.
As a result, the frontrunners have lost momentum as donations and support are stagnating, and they have been taken "off-message." Because of the Christie buzz, anything Perry and Romney say and do is simply white noise.
Most damaging to the GOP, however, is that Barack Obama has been given a reprieve. As President, he is driving the ship, which, given never-ending stream of bad economic news, is listing badly. So any opportunity that takes the political focus off of himself and the economy is greatly welcomed. Until the Christie rumor mill is emphatically shut down, the President will be able to regroup and attempt to stabilize his situation. It’s not a panacea, but it certainly helps him.
While that was definitely not the intention of Christie, it is in fact reality.
So one of several things is true:
1) Christie has no intention of running, but is badly underestimating how closely people are hanging on his every word,
2) Christie is definitely running, taking advantage of millions in free media coverage while quietly putting together an organization. While a brilliant strategy, its shelf life is measured in days, and will backfire if played too long. One cannot run a stealth campaign for president.
3) He really hasn’t made up his mind yet.
The last scenario is most troubling, because if a candidate’s heart is not in a race, but chooses to run anyway, he will be a total failure. The American people can sense that type of insincerity immediately. Need proof? Ask Fred Thompson. (And conversely, a tip of the hat to Mike Huckabee and Mitch Daniels, who both admitted that they were lacking the fire in the belly in deciding not to run).
I have been fortunate to have had a front row seat covering some of Governor Christie’s triumphs, seeing firsthand the progress one man can make. It would be a shame to see that legacy tarnished by indecision.
So with all due respect, Mr. Christie, given the impending political hurricane, let me paraphrase a popular Governor by saying, "Get the hell in or out of the race!"
An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com
Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries
and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including
The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick
Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in
Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national
television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]