In a lengthy press conference Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie formally rejected pleas from establishment Republicans that he jump into the 2012 fray, saying once and for all that he would not run for the party's presidential nomination this year. "Now is not my time," he told reporters in Trenton. Christie has repeatedly opted out, but says he reconsidered in recent weeks after several powerful GOP insiders urged him to launch a campaign. How will Christie's final no affect the race? Here's a rundown of the winners and losers:
Christie's decision is "good news for Mitt Romney," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. Both appeal to GOP moderates, so Romney was "the candidate with the most to lose if Christie had entered the race." Now, "donors and establishment Republicans who have been sitting on the sidelines trying to convince Christie to run will have to make a choice," and they're not going to go for a "gadfly" with a weak organization like Herman Cain. There's no savior coming. Expect reluctant Republicans to start settling for Romney.
"This could be Sarah Palin's moment," says Ed Kilgore at The New Republic. Rick Perry's campaign is imploding, Romney remains persona non grata among conservatives, Cain is still "miles away from being taken seriously by GOP elites as a potential nominee" — and now Christie, the last alternative savior, is out of the picture. If "St. Joan of the Tundra" jumps in, she might be the one who can unite the GOP base, which yearns for a "mavericky" conservative champion.
To enter the game this late and win, a candidate would need the support of a lot of fired-up Republicans, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. But despite the media frenzy, a Christie candidacy had generated only "moderate enthusiasm (pun intended)." And remember, Christie's presidential flirtation has raised his profile in the party, says Justin Miller at The Atlantic. Now he can expand his influence further by putting his imprimatur on someone else's candidacy — serving as a "cheerleader" and "attack dog" in a potentially successful GOP campaign.
Someday, the tough-talking governor might regret that he didn't at least give it a shot, says Dan Amira at New York. "2016 could be vastly more inhospitable to a run — a Republican president could be up for re-election, and even if it's an open race, star GOP maybe-candidates like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Bobby Jindal could overshadow Christie." Plus, Christie's hardly a lock to be re-elected governor in blue New Jersey in 2013. And it would be easier to run for president in 2016 as a current, not former, governor.
With Christie out, Perry's prospects just got a little dimmer, says Michael D. Shear at The New York Times. Yes, the Texas governor "remains the most likely Republican candidate to carry the message of the angry, fired-up conservative base of the party, in spite of his stumbles and the recent gains of candidates like Herman Cain." But Perry has to fight with other conservative candidates for that support; with Christie out, apparently Romney has mainstream establishment Republicans all to himself.
Dissatisfied GOP voters
Many conservatives, particularly in the political commentariat, have loudly voiced their displeasure with their slate of candidates. A "long procession of Republicans" — including Mike Pence, John Thune, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and now Christie — "have turned down flattering and persuasive invitations to jump into the presidential race," says Jeff Zeleny at The New York Times. Republican activists, voters, and donors are going to have to accept the reality that their presidential field is set. "It's time to start sizing up the candidates, learning to love at least one of them, and preparing to head toward the voting booth."