Bill Kristol’s been a Christie booster for ages so it’s tempting to dismiss this as wishful thinking, but I don’t know. Makes more sense now than it did three months ago.
Speaking of Christie: As of Friday, when we wrote the editorial [recommending Ryan or Rubio for VP], we’d been led to believe Christie wasn’t in serious consideration. We now have reason to think he may be. So to be clear: We’d certainly include him with Ryan and Rubio as potential gold medal finalists. As to choosing among the three of them? A photo finish. But choosing a VP candidate who will help Romney run a big, forward looking campaign—that is not a close call.
We’re three months out from election day and Romney’s favorables are still upside down. In Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll, Obama’s suddenly ahead for just the second time in two months. The last wispy chances of an economic recovery before election day evaporated long ago, yet according to Nate Silver’s statistical model of the electoral college, Obama would crack 300 EVs (barely) if the election were held today. If you believe Major Garrett, even Romney’s own advisors are worried that he’s been “too rich for too long” to put some undecideds at ease. And because political news today moves faster than it did 30 years ago, there’s no telling if the convention and the debates will shift votes as dramatically as they did for Reagan against Carter.
If, in other words, the campaign’s decided that it needs some oomph, who better than Christie to provide it? Arguably only Rubio would jolt the race more, but Rubio’s lack of experience would be a bigger problem for the ticket than Christie’s would for the simple, silly, superficial reason that Rubio looks so much younger than his age. People will look at him and be amazed that he’s 35, a bad reaction when you’re presenting him as the man you want one heartbeat away. Christie’s older and looks the part of a seasoned pol even though he’s only held major political office as long as Rubio has, so he’s easier (though necessarily easy) to sell in that role. Beyond that, Christie’s better suited to the campaign demands of the VP role than Rubio is: Romney needs an attack dog and that’s not really who Rubio is. He’s more of an uplift guy a la Obama 2004 than a streetfighter, whereas Christie’s the preeminent streetfighter in the GOP right now. And like Rubio and Paul Ryan and precious few others, Christie can deliver big-picture fiscal conservatism on the stump like few other politicians in America can.
The argument against picking him has always been that (a) he’ll overshadow Romney and (b) he’s enough of a loose cannon that he’ll say something damaging on the stump. As to the latter point, Christie’s been stumping for Romney for months without any miscues; in fact, he’s trusted enough that Romney chose him, among the Republican all-stars who were with him, to give the closing remarks at the big GOP confab in Colorado a few days ago. He’s not a dummy. He can rein himself in with the stakes this high. As to the former point, the more the election looks like it’s slipping away from Romney, the more I’d bet he’s willing to make peace with the idea of a larger-than-life VP if that guy can help him win. And Christie probably can help: Just four days ago, an FDU poll of the deep blue state of New Jersey found CC with a 55 percent approval rating there, including 65 percent approval among independents. Some conservatives would argue that that’s because Christie, apart from fiscal issues, is basically a centrist, but I doubt Romney cares about that either. If tea partiers are willing to line up behind the guy who signed off on RomneyCare in the interest of bouncing The One, adding a guy to the ticket who believes in global warming isn’t going to deter them. The question at this point is, simply, would Christie increase Romney’s chances of winning more than any of the other shortlisters? There’s an argument to be made that, yeah, he would. Risky, but potentially high reward.