A year of conservative momentum topped off with a major midterm victory has left Republicans "seemingly ascendant," says Jason Zengerle in New York, but there's a big gap: The party has "no Reagan-like figure to lead them" in victory against President Obama in 2012. Enter Chris Christie, the hard-hitting New Jersey governor and object of "serious — and sudden — infatuation" from both GOP leaders and far-right activists. Christie insists, emphatically, he won't run. His denials aside, could Christie be the party's next great leader? (Watch a Fox News report about Christie's rise)

Christie "could reshape the GOP": There's a reason Republicans are "begging Christie to throw his hat in the presidential ring," say the editors of FoxNews.com. He brashly stands up to the "liberal establishment, notably teachers' unions," and slashes spending without raising taxes. The GOP establishment loves him, and even "Tea Party movement leaders privately say he's the politician they most want to draft in 2012." Watch out, Obama.
"Chris Christie's GOP fan club grows but no bigger plans yet"

Christie's shine will wear off: The GOP is in awe of Christie because he's managed to make some "difficult and unpopular fiscal decisions" and still "remain popular," says John Gramlich in Stateline. But there's good reason to believe that his "next three years in office could be more challenging than the first," as voters, facing higher transit fees and local taxes, realize "they are paying more for less state government."
"Chris Christie is a role model... but do his cuts add up?"

Voters will date Christie, but marry another candidate: As the GOP's "collective crush" on a certain "little-known governor of Alaska" in 2008 shows, says The Economist, "infatuation" is different than "the difficulties and drudgery of love." Christie's "candor," even with its whiff of YouTube "stagecraft," is a breath of fresh air, and plays well with GOP activists. But his "forthrightness" may seem "less bracing, more brutal" to voters in crucial 2012 states like Iowa.
"The conservatives' new crush"