Monday, December 29, 2014

Did Chris Christie...

...miss his "sell by" date?

That's the question I asked myself after reading "Christie Roams, and Popularity Suffers at Home" in the Times yesterday. From the article:

When the Chris Christie-for-president chatter first started, in 2011, voters in his home state of New Jersey took pride in having a celebrity governor. As Nancy Reagan escorted Mr. Christie to his speech at her husband’s presidential library, and hedge fund billionaires, The Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages urged him to run, his approval ratings jumped. Voters told pollsters the national attention made him more effective, and improved their state’s long-maligned image.

Four years later, with Governor Christie again considering a run for president, his constituents appear to be tiring of the whole routine.

So I wonder: Should Chris Christie have run in 2012? Did he miss his best chance to be the Republican nominee? After all, the party was positively dying for an alternative to Mitt Romney. Now Christie is less popular in his home state. Even if he had lost to President Obama, the New Jersey governor would have been well-positioned to be the frontrunner for 2016. With Jeb Bush now the likely candidate of the establishment, where does that leave Christie?

Or, you could ask yourself, did Jeb Bush miss his best chance, also in 2012?

Recently, his brother said:

“The idea of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Bush unsettles people, including Jeb, interestingly enough. But you don’t get to shape the environment in which you won and so how about this: Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Clinton? The point is that that may be the race. Is it ideal for some? No. But nevertheless, people are going to have to choose between one or the other, if that ends up being the way it is.”

I had read or heard that Jeb didn't run against Obama in 2012 because he didn't want to be responsible for turning out the first black president. That's admirable, I suppose, but I think his brother has a point: You don't necessarily get to choose the ideal time to run for president. Sometimes you just have to run when opportunity knocks. And, like Christie, the party may have embraced Jeb in 2012 and, who knows, maybe he would have won. In any case, like Christie, Jeb would have been the clear frontrunner this time around and maybe even polling better than Hillary Clinton. But now, however, Jeb has to run in a crowded field with other establishment candidates as well as tea party favorites.

Is experience in office overrated? After less than one term in the Senate, President Obama has accomplished a lot as chief executive. Would more time on the hill have made him a better president? I doubt it. In fact, it may have made him worse. Or maybe he wouldn't have gotten another chance at all.

Hillary is another presidential hopeful who may have squandered her best opportunity, in 2004, when she was still fresh and W. was so unpopular. (I'd read that it was Chelsea who talked her out of it.) Has she missed her sell-by date too?

The Senate can be a great place to make a career, but I'm not so sure that the more time spent there, the better. Did multiple terms in the world's greatest deliberative body prepare people like John McCain or Joe Biden any better for the Oval Office? Or does the law of diminishing marginal returns set in at some point?

Politics aside, I think Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are smart to go ahead and make a run for the White House now. Their sell-by date is probably 2016. The two freshman are popular with their respective bases now; hanging around the Senate for another term or two would only make them stale.

As for Chris Christie, well, I don't think he could have ever been elected president anyway, so no big loss. But he's a good example of what happens when someone ignores his sell-by date.

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