If every moment needs a man, then Chris Christie – the pugnacious governor of New Jersey – is currently that man. Christie, having only been in office for 14 months, has emerged as a conservative darling, earning more proverbial ink than any other prominent Republican this past year. His earnest enthusiasm, combined with prosecutorial precision, has spurred punditry stardom from YouTube to the New York Times Magazine.
As a result, conservative activists and GOP leaders have taken to persuading the rotund governor to run for president. A crowded and uninspiring field of potential candidates has warranted a need for someone big (pun intended), and the New Jersey governor distinguishes himself with the necessary electoral intangibles. His executive experience far surpasses then-Senator Obama's brief federal legislative experience. His stint as chief federal law enforcement officer in New Jersey arms him with both intellectual and populist bona fides. Most important, his command of budgetary and economic issues has Republicans itching for a Christie vs. Obama debate.
Yet, for all the attention paid to his brashness and budgetary truth-telling, a more noble virtue has been overlooked. Responding to constant appeals to run for president, Christie has been decidedly – and refreshingly – honest in denying a potential run. Such coyness is relatively common for future candidates, before undergoing a dramatic change of heart when the timing better suits their candidacy. But, Christie's guarantee is different (and not merely because he jocularly pledged that only his committing suicide might quell rumors of a run). He consistently admits he does not feel ready for the job.
Politicians, particularly those targeting the presidency, are known to embrace opportunism to the extreme. Political graveyards are littered with men wanting, and failing, to reach the presidency. Each tombstone explains a different demise; a common theme, however, is poor timing.
For Christie, conditions appear ripe in 2012. With budget and economic issues at the forefront, his legacy in New Jersey already seems well suited and timely for the federal realm. Further, his every-man tone, along with his sharp conversational directness, would contrast nicely against the polished and professorial Obama.
Should he wait until 2016, the GOP field will likely have other men (and women) of the moment. Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Paul Ryan are just a couple who will likely make up the new class.
Christie, however, won't budge. In a stream of unabashed honesty to the National Review's Rich Lowry, Christie referred to his role as governor in that, "there has never been a day where I’ve felt like I’m over my head, I don’t know what to do, I’m lost." He contrasted this to a potential presidential run: "I don’t know whether I’d feel the same way if I walked into the Oval Office a year and a half from now. So, unless you get yourself to the point where you really believe you have a shot to be successful, then I don’t think you have any business running for it."
Such an admission is certainly tonic. It reveals a man confident in both his talents and his limitations. Politics and ideology aside, we should all want leaders with this mindset. Now that Christie has made himself clear, perhaps we should try convincing him that he's ready.
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