Christie bows out (again)

The headlines telling news consumers that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has decided not to run for president in 2012 are, at a certain level, misleading. He already announced that decision months ago. Christie has repeatedly said, to everyone who’s asked, that he won’t run. Last week, the governor referred reporters to a Politico video of him saying “no,” over and over again, which the media interpreted as a sign of possible interest in the race.

Regrettably, whispers, rumors, and breathless-but-unsourced reports refused to go away. And so, in about a half-hour, Christie will once again say what he’s been saying all along.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has decided not to seek the presidency, according to two associates.

Mr. Christie is scheduled to announce his decision at a news conference in the state capital at 1 p.m. But one adviser to the governor and another person who spoke to him directly said Tuesday morning that the governor would not pursue the Republican nomination.

The governor and his wife have reportedly called backers this morning to inform them of the governor’s final decision (as if it wasn’t quite final enough when Christie said, “Short of suicide, I don’t really know what I’d have to do to convince you people that I’m not running”).

The list of possible GOP presidential candidates who were considered contenders, but who ended up ruling out campaigns, is pretty long: Daniels, Huckabee, Barbour, Thune, Trump, Perry, Pence, Jindal, Corker, Jeb Bush, and now Christie — and a certain former half-term governor of Alaska hasn’t yet made any announcements. For all the stated confidence from Republicans about President Obama’s vulnerabilities, the fact that so many prominent GOP figures have decided to skip the 2012 race is pretty interesting.

As for Christie, I’ve never fully understood what all the fuss was about. Even if we put aside the governor’s repeated denials about the race, his relative moderation would have made it all but impossible for the Republican base to even consider him for the nomination.

In terms of the impact of his announcement, Christie’s base of support appeared to be political reporters — he wasn’t especially well loved or even known by GOP voters nationwide, so it’s a little silly to ask where his backers will go now that he’s officially out of the race (again). That said, Christie would have been less right-wing than nearly all of the current field, so his absence will once again leave us with a Romney vs. Perry race, with Romney unconcerned about protecting his more moderate flank.

To me, the real story here is the fact that there was a Christie boomlet in the first place. That so many in the Republican Party are so desperate for another “savior” candidate to jump in the race at the 11th hour, is a reminder that GOP insiders still aren’t satisfied with this field. Yes, given the larger economic conditions, one of these candidates may end up winning next year, but it’s still a pretty awful group of candidates that leaves many Republicans underwhelmed, uninspired, and apparently a little panicky.

I’m not unsympathetic. If I were a major GOP insider asked to choose between the unlikable flip-flopper, the dimwitted governor, the wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, the disgraced former Speaker, the guy who ran a pizza company, the radical libertarian, and the former Obama administration official, I too might be asking myself, “Who else can we reach out to?”

Regardless, Christie won’t ride in on a white horse to make the party establishment and political reporters happy. Time will probably be better spent now wondering who Romney will pick as his running mate.