Content Section

Top Story

ON TO TAMPA

Chris Christie to Give RNC Keynote

Chris Christie to Give RNC Keynote Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Given to rising star in party.

Now that Paul Ryan will be a little busy in Tampa, Republicans have tapped Chris Christie to give the keynote address at the convention at the end of the August—a sign that Christie is being groomed for a 2016 run. The sought-after keynote address is usually given to a rising star in the party—little known as an Illinois senate candidate, President Obama gave the 2004 Democratic keynote speech—and Christie has famously fired up the GOP’s base with his no-nonsense style and budget slashing. On Sunday, Christie hinted at a 2016 run, saying that he “will be unemployed after 2013, so who knows?”

Read it at USA Today

Latest Updates

2012 Veepstakes

Romney’s Safest VP Pick

Solid character, plenty of experience, zero risk—that’s why Mitt Romney will choose Rob Portman as his running mate. But nine more, from Chris Christie to Jeb Bush, will at least get an interview, says Mark McKinnon.

Conventional wisdom suggests that in the end, vice-presidential picks really don’t make a difference. Ultimately, voters’ choices are driven by the choice at the top of the ticket.

But in a race that could come down to a single swing state and less than a million votes’ difference, the right No. 2 choice could absolutely have an impact on the outcome in November.

Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio

Mitt Romney held a town-hall meeting in Aston, Pa., with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in April. (Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images)

Presidential candidates are in control of just four opportunities to substantially affect public opinion and move poll numbers: the announcement and rollout of the candidacy; the debates; the convention nomination speech; and the selection of a vice president.

And for those who think the VP pick is just about politics, it bears noting that in the last 40 years, four of the 10 presidents also have served as vice president. Two were elevated by election, one following an assassination, and another by a resignation.

So, all things considered, it’s damn big deal.

So, allow me to join the punditry parlor game and offer some handicapping on Mitt Romney’s likely choice. The emerging consensus, which seems pretty solid, is that Romney’s vice-presidential-selection process will be incredibly buttoned up, methodical, comprehensive, and ultimately—here is the key—safe.

Unlike four years ago, when John McCain faced stiff anti-Republican winds and needed to throw deep in an effort to erase a huge Democratic advantage, this year the race is a jump ball. So there’s no need for risk. It’s not Romney’s style, anyway.

Odd Couple

Christie and Booker—Frenemies Forever

Garden State Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker have so far bucked the national trend of partisan stalemate with a rare show of cross-party collaboration on several hot-button issues, writes John Avlon, but how long can this honeymoon last?

Is this the Golden Age of New Jersey politics? 

booker-christie-video-avlon

Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in a scene from a video they made for the benefit of the New Jersey Press Association Legislative Correspondents Club dinner.

After the chronic embarrassments of Governors James McGreevey and Jon Corzine, beyond the scores of mayors indicted for corruption, the Garden State is suddenly fielding a bipartisan team with national appeal.

They’re the ultimate political odd couple, a stereotypical comedy duo in a thin guy/fat guy, black guy/white guy sort of way. And now they’ve co-starred in their first online comedy feature, filmed for the benefit of the New Jersey Press Association Legislative Correspondents Club dinner, which quickly went viral.

The frenemy tension that animates the video (“Booker!”) highlights the fact that these two figure–Governor Christie Christie and Mayor Corey Booker–are both believed to have their best days ahead of them. They manage to excite their respective party bases while also impressing establishment heavyweights. And despite their record of constructive collaboration and personal chemistry, they just might find themselves on a political collision course in the future.

Given the courting of Chris Christie to run for president this year–and his full court press for Romney VP consideration–it’s easy to forget that of the two Christie is the relative newcomer on the political scene, achieving office just over two years ago. He’s drawn national conservative accolades for his eagerness to confront budget gaps and big labor powers. He’s proven controversial but also enormously effective–contrast Christie’s record with Jerry Brown’s deepening fiscal hole in California for one snapshot of different philosophies leading to different results. And despite New Jersey trending Democrat as national Republicans abandon the Northeast, Christie’s 56 percent approval rating means he is more popular in the state than President Obama right now, no small feat.

Corey Booker has cultivated a national reputation far beyond traditional occupants of Newark’s City Hall. His city still struggles on a number of fronts, but Booker’s relative youth, oratorical skills, social media accessibility, and intermittent on-the-ground heroics have made him the Democrats’ most likely to succeed--that rare local leader considered ready for prime time. The gist of the video’s joke was that Booker keeps making national news with local heroics like rescuing a neighbor by busting into her burning home. You just can’t buy that kind of publicity–you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time and be willing to put your hide on the line.

Despite their different political parties and political philosophies, the two have been able to find common ground on the critical area of education reform, thanks largely due to Booker’s willingness to buck the powerful teachers’ unions with his support for school choice and charter schools. Despite boosts like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million dollar gift to the Newark school system–and one of the highest per pupil spending rates in the nation at $22k–student performance and graduation rates still lag. Likewise, the per capita murder rate is far too high.  But Booker, like Christie, retains an ability to pick tough fights and appeal across partisan lines, even if his approach is focused more on healing than confrontation.

Republicans are less than excited by Mitt’s latest wins and still dream of a candidate who can fire up the base and be mainstream enough to oust Obama. But the likely suspects—Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and Chris Christie—have their own baggage.

Not since that 1985 Mikhail Baryshnikov cinematic embarrassment has the term “white knight” so polluted the public discourse. (Or was that “white nights?” No matter.)

140191968JS013_MITT_ROMNEY_

Romney speaks during a primary-night gathering in Novi, Michigan. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Even as the primary season rolls along, angsty Republicans fantasize about a base-friendly-but-not-barking-mad champion to come thundering up on his majestic steed and save them from this utterly uninspiring primary field.

After Michigan, don’t look for the dream to die anytime soon. Mitt Romney’s win wasn’t pretty and will continue to fuel concerns that the GOP electorate, despite its visceral hatred of Obama, won’t be as fired up as it needs to be to kick ass in November.

Thus the loins-on-fire lust for a white knight.

Now, the Republican establishment isn’t nuts. It knows that a last-minute savior is unlikely. Even those who publicly pine for one typically acknowledge a variety of technical impediments, such as missed filing deadlines, the difficulty of cobbling together a national operation at this late date—and, of course, the fact that pretty much all of the most-mentioned dream candidates have already said, thank you very much, but no thanks.

So there’s that.

But let us assume that all of these impediments could be removed. That still leaves us with the question: who in the world is actually a viable candidate to serve as the GOP’s great white knight?

Paul Campos on what the governor’s civil-rights flub says about the contemporary conservative movement.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to misquote it, as the Spanish philosopher George Santayana did not say. A prime example: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie saying civil-rights activists “would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets of the South.”

Gay Marriage NJ

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the decision to legalize same-sex marriage should be put to voters. (Mel Evans / AP Photo)

The governor, who has 20 years of schooling on his résumé—the last three at a fully accredited law school—displayed this remarkable ignorance of one of the most important legal and political events in American history while explaining his decision to veto a bill that would legalize gay marriage. Christie argued last week that the issue should be decided by a popular referendum—and claimed that 1950s and 1960s civil-rights activists would have preferred one.

It’s one thing if the governor of one of our largest states—and a potential GOP presidential candidate—doesn’t happen to have the details of the Whiskey Rebellion or the procedural history of the passage of the Sherman Act at his fingertips. It’s quite another when he purports to base policy decisions on a level of historical knowledge that should embarrass a sixth grader.

Christie was born in 1962. At that time, the states of the old Confederacy imposed an apartheid regime on their black citizens, via a combination of state violence (a.k.a. “the law”) and private terrorism. A critical element of this regime was that African-Americans were mostly precluded from voting, by that same combination of forces. The notion that, under such conditions, people risking their lives in the fight for racial justice “would have been happy” to see their campaign put to a popular vote is offensive and idiotic.

(On Tuesday night, Christie did apologize for his remark, telling a New Jersey radio station: “Anybody who was offended by what I said, if you’re listening out there tonight, I apologize for that. I didn’t mean to offend anybody, and if I did I’m sorry.”)

Jim Crow was finally dismantled, not by popular referendum but by federal legislation, and the federal court decisions that enforced it. That legislation, and those decisions, were opposed bitterly by most of the American conservative political establishment, including such icons of the American right as Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. That opposition was based on the pernicious idea that the property rights of business owners were so precious and inviolate that they should trump even the most minimal regard for basic human decency.

In Reagan and Goldwater’s worldview, a man’s desire to refuse to serve a family a meal in his restaurant, or to offer that family one of his hotel rooms for the night, for no more ennobling reason that he preferred not to do business with “niggers” was something that ought to be protected by all the force of the state.

Running Mate

Romney’s VP Dilemma

It’s early, but who’s on the shortlist—Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley? Howard Kurtz on the pluses and minuses of potential Mitt running mates after his decisive win in New Hampshire.

It’s a bit too soon, even in the aftermath of his New Hampshire victory, for Mitt Romney to start picking a running mate. But it’s not too early for us to have some fun thinking about it.

Was6119874

EMMANUEL DUNAND

The veepstakes is one of the great political parlor games, an exercise both fascinating and overrated. A bad pick can hurt a campaign, as John McCain learned last time, but only in the rarest of instances does a No. 2 help a presidential candidate win the White House.

(Could Hillary Clinton be an exception? Former New York Times editor Bill Keller is sure promoting the idea. But that remains a fantasy, given the remote likelihood that Barack Obama would dump Joe Biden.)

If Romney is indeed the GOP nominee, he faces the most important decision of his campaign—not because a running mate will drag him across the finish line, but because the country will judge the way he makes his first presidential-level decision. Traditionally, there are three major factors to consider, although these may be relics of the past.

In the old days, geographic balance was practically a must. But ever since Bill Clinton of Arkansas picked Al Gore of neighboring Tennessee, that seems less important in the media age.

A second consideration is selecting someone who can deliver a crucial state. That may well have worked in the 1960 election, when Lyndon Johnson helped Jack Kennedy carry Texas. But Lloyd Bentsen couldn’t do the same for Michael Dukakis, and John Kerry lost North Carolina even with John Edwards on the ticket. The last two Republican nominees abandoned the key-state approach: Dick Cheney’s Wyoming and Sarah Palin’s Alaska don’t count for much in the Electoral College.

The final measure, ideological balance, may still resonate. With Bush-Cheney, McCain-Palin, and Gore-Lieberman, for instance, the winning candidate was trying to make inroads with the other wing of his party.

Wishful Thinking

The GOP Road Not Taken

Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and other center-right Republicans could have built bridges and given the party a better chance of defeating Obama, argues John Avlon.

Imagine them all clustered in a roadhouse, having a beer around sunset, shaking their heads over the lost opportunity.

There on the bench are Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, and my former boss, Rudy Giuliani.

The GOP Road Not Taken

From left: Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels. (AP Photo (2); Getty Images)

On TV they watch the political circus of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich—all rising and falling in succession as the GOP flavor of the month while the unloved, once-presumptive frontrunner, Mitt Romney, remains the only man in politics with a glass ceiling.

There are all sorts of reasons to decide now is not the right time to run for president. It tends to hold back the most responsible people because they ask themselves reality-based questions about policy preparation, personal vulnerabilities, the ability to raise money and the impact on their families.

But the most irresponsible just say what the hell and try to make the race for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue a will to power, often with alleged personal encouragement from God. So being a three-term congresswoman who couldn’t win statewide office in Minnesota or a pizza-chain CEO is no impediment to running for president of the United States.

They impose their own reality show on the presidential race, enabled by the increasing polarization of the primary electorate.

But imagine what a selection of strong center-right candidates could have offered the Republican Party and the country in 2012.

Primaries

Life After Chris and Sarah

Face it, Republicans: the dream date for 2012 isn’t going to show. Matt Latimer on why the GOP needs to reconcile itself to a Romney-Perry fight.

What if this is as good as it gets? That’s not Jack Nicholson asking, but Republican primary voters as they look out upon a presidential field that is flawed, feeble, and finally final.

Yes, the “Perfect Candidate” will not be in the mix for 2012. No Chris Christie to entertain bored reporters. No Sarah Palin for TV cameras to chase across the country. Palin said she and her family would “devote ourselves to God, family and country” in that order. This is yet another embarrassment for the McCain campaign, which made such a big deal out of its pretentious slogan “Country First.” God presumably came in second or third.

There may be a few more teases this election season—perhaps Donald Trump will wake up one morning and decide he hasn’t been in the headlines enough. Or someone will claim that Palin has changed her mind and is flying to New Hampshire. There might even be an Internet campaign for Betty White. But the fact is that the recruiting period is over. Just as before, just as always, there are only two candidates with any chance in this race: Mitt Romney and “Somebody Else.” Who fills that second slot isn’t all that uncertain, either.

Chris Christie and Mitt Romney

The announcement by Christie (left) that he won’t join the GOP race leaves longtime frontrunner Romney (right) and the “Anybody but Romney” opponent to be determined. (Left to right: Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images; Ross D. Franklin / AP Photo)

Though the conventional wisdom was that the Christie flirtation was harmful to the more conservative candidates in the race, the truth is that it was really worse news for Mitt Romney. The pining for Christie reflected yet again a mass dissatisfaction among the party’s biggest donors and the electorate with their four-year-long frontrunner. The former Massachusetts governor has run a campaign almost entirely free of gaffes, errors, and passion. Surely it is unnerving to a candidate who has been running practically nonstop since 2008 that 75 percent of Republican primary voters still prefer anybody else. Clearly Romney’s plan is not to inspire, but to endure. That might give him the nomination—and odds are that it will. But few candidates actually coast to the White House on the popular slogan, “Hey, he could be worse.”

As for the Anybody but Romney candidate, donors and activists have looked in vain for the perfect choice. Now they have to choose from what is before them. Congressman Ron Paul has shown neither the interest nor ability to move beyond his narrow, if rabid, base. Herman Cain, benefiting from an upsurge in the polls that probably has surprised even him, has the daunting task of trying to build a credible campaign with absolutely no experience in the lunatic art of political organization and with most voters still knowing nothing about him. Michele Bachmann seems to have lost her rationale and her mojo. Jon Huntsman never had either; his campaign seems focused on becoming president of New Hampshire. Either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum might have a chance if voters wanted to give them a listen. He’ll detest the comparison, but Senator Santorum is like NBC’s The Playboy Club. Seemed like something people might watch, with a controversial message and an appealing-looking male lead. Except they didn’t.  

Which leaves only one. Soon the donors and activists who detest Mitt Rombot will stop indulging their latest shiny object in the window and find their way back to the one they so quickly abandoned. That is, of course, if he is willing to meet them halfway.

Though the pundits who live for all these televised presidential forums will have you believe otherwise, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is not in political trouble because he is a mediocre debater. Nor have his polls numbers drooped because The Washington Post and The New York Times woke up the other day and decided the longest-serving governor in Texas history, who won nearly four out of 10 Hispanic voters in 2010, is an unrepentant racist. No, Perry is in trouble for one (very surprising) reason: he has shown an alarming lack of understanding about how to talk to his own base. It is not that conservatives refuse to tolerate Perry’s liberal view (if he’ll excuse the term) on the issue of illegal immigration. What rankles even more is that Perry had to label those who disagreed with him as heartless. This struck too close to the language of Bush and Rove when they tried to push an immigration-reform bill past their political base and lashed out when the base balked. And Perry definitely doesn’t need that particular comparison.

Conservative Hero

The One Who Got Away

Even as he opted out of the 2012 race, Chris Christie showed the likable qualities that had big-money guys and ordinary folks all salivating, says Michael Daly.

The big-money guys must have been feeling bad enough when they got the advance word that all their entreaties were for naught.

To make it worse, Gov. Chris Christie then made the public announcement with the same can-do confidence and brash humor that the big guys were so sure could win over the little people, including at least some of the crazies.

USA CHRIS CHRISTIE

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Oct. 4, announcing that he won't seek the Republican nomination for president (Andrew Gombert / EPA-Landov)

Even as he was definitively declaring he was not going to run for president, even as he was saying “Now is not my time,” he was demonstrating the winning qualities the big guys believed could have put him in the White House.

Christie may have suspiciously liberal views about gun control and immigration, but watch the way he jousts with those reporters and shows them up for what they are!

From a big-guy point of view, Christie may have gone a little far when a reporter inquired about the effectiveness of those who had urged him to run.

“Obviously, they weren’t that good,” Christie joked.

They had been good enough to get him to reconsider. And he had made sure in his speeches to reassure them that he was one Everyman who would look out for the wealthy. A tweet from somebody who attended a private fundraiser in Clayton, Mo., quoted Christie telling the assemblage, “Everybody has the right to be rich in America. That’s what [Republicans] believe.”

Campaign

Bursting the Christie 2012 Bubble

The media fervently tried to draft Christie because they saw him as manna from heaven, but the New Jersey governor was never going to run. Howard Kurtz on where his decision leaves the 2012 field.

After the huge buildup, the constant chatter, the swirling speculation that he could steamroll his way to the Republican nomination, Chris Christie said it himself: “The answer was never anything but no.”

Christie Daniels

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Mel Evans / AP Photo)

With those words in Trenton, the New Jersey governor ended an extraordinary 10-day period defined by a palpable longing among some GOP voters searching for an alternative, and by an obsession among journalists bored with covering the candidates who actually are running.

In the wake of Christie’s funny and freewheeling news conference Tuesday, when he delighted in teasing and chiding his home-state reporters and even laughed at jokes about his weight, it’s clear why he would have been manna for the media. He is colorful, confident, and confrontational—what we used to call, in the days when print ruled, good copy. The Christie talk fueled the third-biggest week of coverage for the 2012 campaign, consuming some 15 percent of news space and airtime, says the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

After similar frenzies of varying intensity over Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, and others, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that reluctant noncandidates are more fascinating to the political press than those engaged in the hard slog of running.

For Christie, there was no ambiguity. “It did not feel right to me, in my gut, to leave now when the job here was not finished,” the governor said. It was always “a long shot,” and he concluded that “now is not my time.”

Of course, the former prosecutor fueled the speculative flames last week with a speech at the Reagan Library and by not shutting the door on the notion that he might barrel his way into the race. That raised his profile considerably and could boost his vice-presidential prospects, even as he scoffed at the notion of being anyone’s No. 2.

Christie’s explanation? He “felt an obligation” to reconsider his decision when “serious people across the spectrum” were urging him to jump in—along with random folks like a farmer in Nebraska who FedExed an appeal to his kids. But he kept coming back to his duties as a freshman governor: “The people sent me to Trenton to get a job done, and I’m just not prepared to walk away.”

Not Yet

Christie Follows 'Gut'

The media’s favorite Republican refuses to jump into the presidential contest, saying ‘now is not my time.’ Howard Kurtz on what his decision means for the race.

The media-generated bubble that Chris Christie might jump into the presidential race popped Tuesday afternoon, with the New Jersey governor declaring that “for me, the answer was never anything but no…The no never changed.”

The bottom line, he told reporters in Trenton: “It did not feel right to me, in my gut, to leave now when the job here was not finished.” He simply concluded that “now is not my time.”

Christie said he “felt an obligation” to reconsider his decision when “serious people across the spectrum” urged him to make a White House run. But he kept coming back to his duties as a freshman governor: “The people sent me to Trenton to get a job done and I’m just not prepared to walk away.”

The hard-charging governor challenged what he called “wild reporting” that family members were opposed to a presidential campaign. He said his kids were supportive and his wife, Mary Pat, woke up him at 6 one morning and said, “If you want to run, go for it.” Christie made the final decision last night.

Chris Christie: ‘Now Is Not My Time’

Had he changed his mind, Christie undoubtedly would have shaken up the contest. But he spent the last year telling anyone who would listen that he felt in his heart he wasn’t ready to be president—although many journalists refused to take no for an answer.

When Christie agreed to rethink his refusal to make the race, he triggered a huge wave of coverage--along with a sideshow debate about his considerable weight. But it was never likely that he would change his mind and be forced to swallow all those “not ready” remarks that would play in an endless video loop.

With a blunt, in-your-face style that supporters loved and opponents found downright rude, Christie would have run a colorful campaign. But as his strategists looked at the obstacles of launching an organization and raising sufficient funds roughly three months before the Iowa caucuses, the reality began to seem more daunting.

Now or Never

Chris Christie's Best Reason to Run

With Obama’s reelection prospects looking dim, 2012 is the New Jersey governor’s best shot. He’s highly popular, he can make himself ready, and his wife no longer objects, says Mark McKinnon.

There are a thousand reasons why Gov. Chris Christie shouldn’t run for president. And there may be only a few good reasons to try.  But there is one very compelling reason why he should pull the trigger and go. 

The presidential hinges of history only swing toward a few people, and rarely more than once.  If Chris Christie ever wanted to be president—ever harbored a distant notion of sitting behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office—he has to go now.   

Chris Christie

After a few more years as governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie will be old news with a lot more baggage. You gotta go when you’re hot. Ask Barack Obama. (Jae C. Hong / AP Photo)

The election of 2016 may as well be a million light years away.  One can only imagine that Christie, like many other budding Republican superstars, figured he could ripen on the vine before jumping into the fray four years from now.  But, that’s what they were all thinking a year ago.  And a year ago, despite the economy, President Obama’s chances of being reelected still looked like a pretty good bet. 

Not anymore.  The average consumer confidence index when a president running for reelection wins is 95.  When they lose, it’s 76.  Today the number is 55.   

So, now it looks a lot more likely that 2016 will be a reelection year for a Republican incumbent.  Christie might think he could be VP, and he’d probably be on the short list.  But if Mitt Romney is the nominee, it’s highly unlikely he’s going to put another northeasterner on the ticket.  (And much more likely that Sen. Marco Rubio will get the nod no matter the nominee.) 

And, after a few more years as governor of New Jersey, Christie will be old news with a lot more baggage.  You gotta go when you’re hot.  Ask Barack Obama. 

Yes, there are all the obvious logistical challenges.  But, getting in this late, Christie creates an instant media tsunami and could surf his way through the first primaries on the late-breaking strength of the wave.  Christie probably had two thoughts watching Gov. Rick Perry: (1) it is hard to get in late, but (2) I can sure as hell do better than he’s doing. 

Unkind

Leave Christie's Weight Alone!

The liberal attacks on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s weight are absurdly hypocritical—and use the same twisted logic that the right uses to attack the poor, says Paul Campos.

What is it about fat that turns otherwise smart people into complacent fools? No, this isn’t a new discovery about the supposed health risks of obesity: it’s an observation about how the sight of a fat body can transform people like Michael Kinsley and Eugene Robinson—writers whose work I usually admire—into bigoted know-nothings, spouting absurd prejudices they would mock if they were aimed at almost any group other than fat people.

Kinsley’s and Robinson’s pieces on why Chris Christie should be required to go on a diet if he wants to run for president read like over-the-top parodies, ginned up by someone arguing that our national freakout over fat is largely a product of elite anxieties about all sorts of overconsumption. That someone would be me. When I read Kinsley’s claim that “the symbolism of Christie’s weight problem goes way past the issue of obesity itself” because “it is just a too-perfect symbol of our country at the moment, with appetites out of control and discipline near zilch,” I almost feel as if I bribed him to write those words. (Kinsley’s claim that Christie’s supposedly unhealthy lifestyle habits disqualify him from presidential consideration is especially obnoxious, given that three years ago he argued that Barack Obama's "steely calm is now one of our country's major assets. If he needs an occasional cigarette to preserve it, let's hand him an ashtray, offer him a light and look the other way.” That we might not want a president obsessing about his waistline rather than the nation’s problems doesn’t seem to have occurred to him.)

christie-obama-campos-box

Rich Schultz / AP (left); Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty Images

Kinsley’s and Robinson’s attacks on Christie come down to the claim that fat people choose to be fat, and could choose to be thin if they were more self-disciplined and had better lifestyle habits. Robinson advises Christie to “eat a salad and take a walk,” while Kinsley believes Christie should be disqualified from running for president until “he goes on a diet and shows he can stick to it.”

This is utter nonsense, which these two writers would recognize as such if someone were to apply their reasoning to almost any other social issue, such as poverty. What would these two double-plus good-thinking liberals say to the claim that poor people choose to be poor, and could choose to be rich if they were more self-disciplined and had better lifestyles? My guess is they would say that’s a ridiculous oversimplification, and one that is ultimately harmful to the cause of social justice. And they would be right.

Here’s my question for people like Kinsley and Robinson: what evidence do they have that, in America today, it’s more realistic for a fat person to “choose” to become thin than it is for a poor person to “choose” to become rich? If anything, it’s statistically rarer for a fat person to maintain significant long-term weight loss than it is for a poor person to achieve affluence.

But, Kinsley and Robinson might reply, everybody knows how fat people can become thin: by exercising more and eating less (“eat a salad and take a walk”). Guess what, everybody also knows how poor people can become rich: by working harder and investing the proceeds of harder work wisely. Would the latter observation strike Kinsley and Robison, given the cultural and economic realities of contemporary American life, as ridiculously simplistic? I’m sure it would—if only because they both have IQs in triple digits.

Indeed, it’s easy to imagine what these writers think of the argument that, in America today, the rich are rich because they work hard and spend their money wisely, while the poor are poor because they’re indolent slackers who squander their income on self-indulgence. Yet this argument, which is so self-evidently ludicrous to liberals when it’s used to blame the poor for being poor, is something that many of these same people swallow whole when it’s time to blame fat people for being fat.

Stay Away

Don't Do It, Chris!

If New Jersey Gov. Christie actually joins the 2012 presidential race, he risks a rapid fall from grace. Just ask Rudy, Fred, and Rick. Matt Latimer on the dangers of heeding your fans.

Gov. Chris Christie is showing prospective suitors a little leg in the 2012 presidential race. Let us hope this is all a tease.  Else Mr. Christie is likely to learn an iron law in politics—to take our awkward metaphor one step further—sometimes it is actually better to be the bridesmaid instead of the bride.

Christie Education

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answers a question at Sharp Elementary School in Cherry Hill, N.J., Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011. (Mel Evans / AP Photo)

Every election year, there is some candidate of the moment ready to stampede to the nomination and a November triumph.  Rudy Giuliani . . . Elizabeth Dole . . . Newt Gingrich . . . Fred Thompson . . . and, oh, Rick Perry (Remember him?). Each entered the presidential race at or near the top of the polls, with millions of dollars pledged to them, with assorted pundits calling them political game-changers, with enthusiastic supporters vowing to stick with them all the way to the convention. And each of them quickly found themselves weighed down by political gravity, a fickle electorate, and a mettlesome, mischievous press.

Gov. Christie surely knows, as all of us in Washington do, what will happen to him the minute he gets into the race for real. That is when the opposition researchers starting earning their paychecks. When political reporters begin to hear whispers from other campaigns or from the governor’s opponents in New Jersey. The first wave of attacks is obvious, and it’s already begun: He’s undisciplined. He’s mean. He’s a loud mouth. He has poll problems in his own state. He alienates people. He doesn’t work well with others.

Then of course there’s the matter of what a Washington Post column this week unsubtly called Mr. Christie’s “hefty burden.”  The Huckabee and Taft comparisons are sadly inevitable. Late-night comedians will be vicious and people will laugh. And that’s just assuming Mr. Christie has been a faithful conservative governor without a hint of scandal.

All bets are off if the good governor has ever departed from party orthodoxy, like Giuliani or Romney. Or ticks off the GOP establishment, like Perry. Or has a problem with big shots at Fox News, like Fred Thompson. Or advanced any proposal or policy that might in even the remotest way have helped a financial contributor. Or had anything to do with vaccinations for kids. Or bought his wife any jewelry. Or ever stumbled over his words. This is how the political prognostication class gets their kicks—they build a lofty tower for their candidate du jour and then remove brick after brick after brick.

Can Christie survive this?  Of course he can. Others have. And he looks like a confident candidate, a person with ideas.  Even in today’s political world, those qualities still count. But with so little time before actual voting begins, the margin for error is infinitesimal. The governor has to really, really want this—be really prepared for what is to come—or he’ll wind up destroying a promising early debut on the national stage.

There will be other promising political years. And there are other options.

Power Couple

Christie’s Feisty First Lady

The blustery, bigger-than-life New Jersey governor rubs many women the wrong way. Michelle Cottle on how his wife—a cute, approachable, working mom—could soften his image in 2012.

Chris Christie is having quite the moment, with random citizens at public events begging him to run for president. The Republican establishment, such as it is, has thrown itself at his feet.

But you know how we know the GOP is getting really, really serious about pushing Christie into the race? The New York Post reports that former First Lady Barbara Bush recently placed an encouraging call to his wife Mary Pat to say: Don’t rule it out, dearie. Life in the White House isn’t as nightmarish as you think.

Mary Pat Christie

New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie, wife of Gov. Chris Christie, is seen in the crowd prior to the governor's budget address on Feb. 22, 2011, in Trenton, N.J. (Julio Cortez / AP Photo)

Everyone recognizes that these days, a key factor in a politician’s decision to mount a presidential bid is whether or not the missus is on board. After all, her life is just as likely as his to be ruined by a White House bid, and four years with a dangerously brassed off first lady is more than most men are prepared to handle.

In Christie’s case, however, the full and enthusiastic participation of his mate would be even more vital than for many candidates, because, well, the governor ain’t much of a ladies’ man, politically speaking.

In these angry, scary times, Christie has many obvious charms: He is big, brash, confrontational, and glaringly authentic—everything Barack Obama is not. At the same time, the governor doesn’t come across as a flake, a hatemonger, or a total nutjob. All things considered, who wouldn’t love a guy like that?

I’ll tell you who: Women.

Obviously I don’t mean all women. There are plenty of gals among the Republican masses pining for Christie. At a town hall earlier this year, one female admirer made news by declaring the governor “hot and sexy.”

Chris Christie's Best Smackdowns

You've been Christied! The RNC keynote speaker clearly has a way with words. Watch our mashup of his most memorable burns just in time for his convention speech.

  1. Chris Christie Gets Angry Play

    Chris Christie Gets Angry

  2. Chris Christie’s ‘Idiot’ Tirade Play

    Chris Christie’s ‘Idiot’ Tirade

  3. How to Out-Booker Cory Booker Play

    How to Out-Booker Cory Booker

Mrs. Christie

The Woman in his Life

Christie’s Feisty First Lady

Christie’s Feisty First Lady

How Chris Christie’s wife could soften his image in 2012.

Full Coverage

More from The Daily Beast

The Chris Christie Tease

The Chris Christie Tease

Lois Romano on why the N.J. governor’s dropped the proclamations that he’s not ready to be president.

Gaffe

Chris Christie Embarrasses Himself

Wishful Thinking

The GOP Road Not Taken

Not Yet

Christie Follows 'Gut'

Chris Christie Breaks Jon Stewart’s Heart

No means no, even when it comes to politics. Jon Stewart noticed a common theme when revisiting Chris Christie’s remarks about running for president that somehow eluded reporters asking the questions.

  1. John Avlon Talks Christie on 'CNN' Play

    John Avlon Talks Christie on 'CNN'

  2. Judith Regan on the Chris Christie Hype Play

    Judith Regan on the Chris Christie Hype

  3. Coulter and Christie: It's Not Over Play

    Coulter and Christie: It's Not Over