If Christie Runs, He'll Face a Tough Road to the White House

Some Republicans are clamoring for the New Jersey governor to join the 2012 presidential race, but he has plenty of reasons to turn them down

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Uncertain of Mitt Romney's conservative bona fides and increasingly doubtful of Rick Perry's electability, Republicans have focused on recruiting another high-profile governor to run for president: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But even a full-court press from conservative donors and power brokers hasn't worn down Christie's resolve - stated publicly, repeatedly, and emphatically - to stay out of the White House race.

That message may have been less adamant but did not appear to have changed when Christie appeared Tuesday at the Reagan Presidential Library. In a question and answer session after his address, a woman pleaded with the governor to run for president "I implore you" the questioner said. She got a standing ovation from the audience but not much encouragement from the governor. Christie, who spent much of his hour on stage excoriating President Obama's record, said he was flattered but added that the pleas of others would not suffice to get him into the race. "That reason has to reside within me," said the governor.

Personal feelings aside, there's another reality that Christie's fans -- as well as those hoping for a fashionably late entrance into the race by Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, or ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- have failed to acknowledge: Even if they declare, the latecomers would face a long, difficult road to the nomination. All the conservative celebrity in the world can't make up for lost time.

Just look at what's happened to Perry. Touted as a conservative champion from the Lone Star State, the governor's entrance into the race was greeted with an overflow of enthusiasm among conservatives. But a scant six weeks after declaring, the reality of his late start has set in - he has struggled to explain his past positions on topics ranging from Social Security to immigration, and his performance during the debates, particularly when asked about foreign policy, suggest a candidate who has had little time to prepare on a subject he knows little about.

And Perry began considering a run and quietly reaching out to supporters in June, four months before Christie would.

"You have to get a campaign together, and that takes a time," said John Feehery, a GOP consultant. "You not only need to get bodies, but bodies who trust each other, can work together, and respond to crises.

"You have to do that on the fly," he added, "and it's never been done successfully."

Perfunctory mechanics of a campaign - like registering on the ballot in all 50 states - suddenly become difficult. Preliminary deadlines for getting on some state ballots begin to fall next month. "You have to get your ducks in a row to get your name on the ballots," acknowledged Palin in a Tuesday night interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News where the 2008 vice presidential candidate laid out a case for not running. In early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, campaigns must build extensive campaign operations, and they must reach across the country to solicit the financial support necessary for a campaign expected to cost at least $50 million.

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Alex Roarty is a politics writer for National Journal.

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