2:28 pm Aug. 27, 20122
Josh: What do you make of this explanation of why Chris Christie "declined to run for vice president"? The news is ostensibly that he doubted Romney would win and didn't want to give up being governor for the privilege of running on what he figures is a losing ticket. But of course it also serves as a public reinforcement of the idea that the person who made the choice about whether Chris Christie would be Romney's running mate was no one other than Chris Christie.
Steve: It basically illustrates why Romney didn't want him, right? He's not, and wouldn't have been as a running mate, a team player. You'd always have to worry about him putting his own image, his own N.J. '13/national '16 future first and causing ... problems. Of course, it's hard to forget that the Christie camp was also putting out the word to Robert Costa at National Review that he wanted the V.P. slot and would take it if asked. But even though this is face-saving spin, I do think there's something to the logic. I never really thought Christie needed the No. 2 slot to enhance his '16 prospects, and it did have the potential of complicating his '13 chances in New Jersey.
Josh: Well, sure. It wouldn't have been worth to him to quit being governor, assuming that was the deal, particularly if he didn't think Romney was going to win. But why now? Doesn't it create a context for Christie's keynote speech that's slightly ... awkward?
Steve: I think it's just an extension of what they did when the Ryan pick was announced, when a "Romney insider" suggested Christie took himself out of the running by refusing to resign as governor.
I would guess Christie's people have always been sensitive to the idea that angling for vice president might look bad at home, especially after all of the will he/won't he run drama last year. I mean, I still think he's in pretty decent shape for '13, but we're also still talking about New Jersey, too. Christie just doesn't have a big margin for error, and it won't help if they make it easier for Democrats to argue that he doesn't really want the job and is looking to get out.
Josh: I suppose Christie gets to have it both ways in any case. This bit of process-based fun will be overshadowed by his big speech at the convention, but he'll still get to assert as many times as he likes between now and Nov. 2013 that he chose to take himself out of the running for vice president so he could stick with New Jersey.
Steve: Well here's the obligatory "He thinks Romney will win!" response from Christie-land. Note that his adviser Bill Palatucci sidesteps the question of whether Christie was asked to resign, so they can keep that one alive. I assume whenever the question comes up in New Jersey between now and next year's election, Christie's reply will be something like, "Hey, you know me. You really think I'm cut out to be someone's No. 2?" And that will be that.
One other thing, though: I do kind of wonder if the bar is set too high for his speech this week. I think what people don't appreciate is that all of the famous Christie moments were unscripted—him handling hecklers or reporters or fielding questions at town hall forums. He is not a great speaker when he's at a podium reading from a teleprompter. That Reagan library speech last fall was a perfect example. He gave a 20-minute speech and it was ... flat. Then he opened it up to questions, and that's when he came to life, got the crowd into it, and ended up with that woman begging him to run. People will be expecting that Christie on Tuesday night, but I'm not sure that's what they'll get. And if his speech ends up being considered a let-down, it could lower his '16 stock.
Josh: Well yes, if he's supposed to be delivering the Republican version of Mario Cuomo's definitive rebuttal to Reaganomics. But I assume Christie is mostly there to talk about the nationally applicable lessons of his triumph over silly liberals, not that much different in spirit from his YouTube-friendly heckler fights. Is that shtick really not replicable without a unionized teacher nearby for him to yell at? Like, what's your prediction for him if the bar is set at, say, Giuliani '08? You don't think he has one quotable community-organizers-amiright crack in him?
Steve: Yeah, true. They'll come up with a few self-deprecating lines for him, and he'll get to talk all about his bipartisan triumph (read: alliances with two conservative Democratic bosses) in New Jersey, and bemoan how Obama tragically opted for polarization and partisan warfare in Washington.