We’re told that even though NJ Gov. Chris Christie has said a million times that he won’t run for president, we’ll hear his final decision by week’s end. Two things are driving that timeline: The law, and the money. Filing deadlines for the early caucuses and primaries start hitting this month. If you don’t file, you won’t be on the ballot, and write-ins hardly ever succeed. Christie is said to be hearing calls to run from “major fundraisers,” but who are those fundraisers? If they’re mainly from the northeast, Christie’s home territory, then their discontent may be less political than regional — there is a widespread fear of nominating a Texan among some Republicans on the east coast, and that fear isn’t entirely unjustified. “Texas fatigue” is real and will be exploited by Obama if Rick Perry is the nominee.
Christie may also be taking polls to see how competitive he would really be, where he would need to be competitive. Joining the campaign late but with a lot of buzz behind him, Christie would need to show early strength against a major competitor to establish himself as a serious contender. That early battleground is probably New Hampshire, where he would go head to head with Mitt Romney.
Romney, as the former governor of Massachusetts, currently holds a huge lead in New Hampshire. Romney also has a several year head start and a massive campaign war chest. Would Christie, whose state isn’t far away and who has already proven himself to be an inspirational figure well beyond New Jersey, be competitive in New Hampshire? Christie probably comes out of the gate more competitive with Romney there than any of the other major candidates, but with Ron Paul being his closest competitor and still about 30 points behind, that isn’t saying much. If Christie jumps in, he probably does make a race of it in the Granite State, which forces Romney’s campaign to spend more money and time there than they had anticipated. Given where he is in the Republican spectrum, Christie also probably competes with Romney for the more moderate vote, but his union takedowns lend him a broader and more populist appeal than Romney. If Christie gets in, we may be looking at what amounts to a dual primary, with Perry and Cain dueling on the right while Christie battles Romney for the moderate wing.
All of that said, I don’t see Christie getting in. But I guess we’ll find out by the end of the week.