Rich Galen

First. Chris Christie.

As I predicted back in 1957, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced at a press conference yesterday that he would not be a Republican candidate for President in 2012.

He said 27 times that he has only been governor for 20 months and didn't think (a) he could turn his back on the people who voted for him and (b) he could leave before the job of fixing the state was done.

This was widely seen as a poke in the eye of Sarah Palin who (a) resigned as Governor of Alaska as soon as she got her first paid speaking gig and (b) wasn't Governor long enough to know what the problems of Alaska were; much less care about fixing them.

Who does this help and who does this hurt?

The conventional wisdom is Christie's decision helps Romney. Maybe it does, but if Christie had gotten into the race he would have taken on the Rick Perry role in the next election: The untested front-runner who may not have meant what he'd written in his book about Social Security.

Romney hasn't been the general target of the other seven candidates since Perry got into this race as he was in the first two debates. Romney is perfectly happy to have someone else be the leader - much like in a short-track bike race when the leader has to (you should pardon the expression) break wind for his/her teammates.

Since Perry announced on the afternoon that the late, lamented Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll he has learned that there is nothing minor enough to be ignored by the Eastern Press if you aren't from the East.

Beginning with the third debate, Perry has been the self-described piñata leaving Romney free to counter-punch when necessary and just be quiet when optimal. If Christie had gotten in, he would have taken on the piñata role and Romney would have had another three or four weeks of looking and sounding presidential while the big guns turned on Christie: What cases did he bring when he was a U.S. Attorney? What cases did he ignore. Which ones did he win? Which did he lose? Who did he hang with in high school? College? Law School?


New Jersey is a pretty small (but intense) state on the East Coast of the United States. There is a big country west of the Cumberland Water Gap and there is a big world outside the U.S.

Getting in this late Christie would not have had the opportunity to think through water issues in northern California nor monetary issues in India. He might have gone from being a really good governor to a really bad candidate for president.

If you watched his presser yesterday you had to come away with the sense that here was a man who was comfortable with his decision.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at