Peggy Noonan wrote famous speeches for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. About Obama’s State of the Union speech, she said she “hated” to write:
It is a strange and confounding thing about this White House that the moment you finally think they have their act together—the moment they get in the groove and start to demonstrate that they do have some understanding of our country—they take the very next opportunity to prove anew that they do not have their act together, and are not in the groove. It’s almost magical. . . If the speech is remembered, it will be as the moment when the president actually slowed—or blocked—his own comeback.Like Noonan, I was serious about Obama being back on track. Tax compromise and a productive “lame duck” session, pro-business appointments, and a post-Tucson Massacre speech that struck just the right tone, along with poll numbers to prove it. And say this about his State of the Union speech, he was honest enough not to promise to rein in government spending, a promise he seems totally unable to keep.
Obama’s failed State of the Union speech re-opens the Republican presidential nomination to a top tier of possible candidates. Republicans again have real hope of winning. And a stepped-up competition creates urgency for every possible candidate, since if a Republican is elected in 2012, the rest may have to wait until 2020, a political lifetime.
Michael Barone recently debunked the political rule that presidential candidates “have to start early to win.” Said Barone, “Many potential and putative Republican candidates this time seem to be biding their time. You may be able to ramp up a campaign pretty quickly in the Facebook era.” Waiting until 2012, for example. New Hampshire’s primary is January 24.
That’s good news for people like Marco Rubio, my previous favored candidate for 2012. Rubio has to hope the GOP field remains unsettled at least through his first year as a U.S. senator.
My thinking Rubio could be nominated for president next year rested on two assumptions: 1) nobody but Sarah Palin will generate any excitement at all, and 2) Palin excitement would cause panicked Republicans to turn to the young, quite untested Rubio as the charismatic alternative.
When I made those assumptions, Chris Christie was already as much in the picture as Rubio. Rubio seemed better. What? Well, Christie doesn’t have Rubio’s looks or his Hispanic heritage.
I’ve changed my mind. Christie is better. He’s a governor (New Jersey), and governors do stuff presidents do, while senators (like Obama) don’t. Governors run things. That’s why since Kennedy, Obama’s the first to go from Senate to the White House, while in between, governors Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush won seven times.
Christie said that when he ran for governor in 2009, he felt qualified for the job. But as for now, he says, “I do not want to go for national office unless and until I believe that I’m completely prepared.” I’m thinking that by next year, after running New Jersey for two full years, and after having laid down another year of quotable blunt talk, Christie will be ready.
He’ll be a good candidate. He’s ethnic—Italian-American, Catholic—and looks it. Most important, he’s a straight talker. If by next year he has a record of success in New Jersey, he will fill the ticket better for Republicans than Wasps Daniels, Huckabee, Pawlenty, Thune, etc.
Christie will compete well for Reagan Democratic votes in the Northeast and Midwest. Democrats benefit when Southerners (Carter, Clinton, even Gore) lead their ticket, but except for first-African-American-ever Obama, do less well with Eastern and Northern liberal nominees (Stevenson, Humphrey, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry). As Frost Belt liberal nominees hurt Democrats, so will a Wasp male candidate handicap Republicans. And should the ethnic Christie make ethnic Rubio his vice president, he’ll extend the GOP’s potential voter base even farther, reaching the all-important Hispanic vote.
According to CNN’s Alexander Mooney, Christie is beginning to go presidential. He’s implicitly aiming his remarks at Obama:
"We're done with soaring rhetoric. Soaring rhetoric feels good for a little while, but if there's no follow-through, all that's left is the same problems except bigger because we put them off."
"the party is over. When you're in this deep a hole, of course you stop digging, but the other part is you need to climb out. And it's always hard, and often not pleasant."
Christie-Rubio in 2012. New Hampshire is 35% Catholic, #7 among U.S. states.