On a personal level, I’m happy to see Chris Christie take action to get his weight under control.  It’s almost impossible not to like him, if just for his blunt, no-nonsense manner and his sense of humor.  His attitude more than his policies endeared Christie to Republicans in and out of New Jersey, and assuming he waltzes through his re-election campaign this fall, he’ll be a player in national politics during the next presidential cycle — whether that motivated his decision to seek surgery now or not.

If he does decide to pursue the nomination, though, he won’t find the effort easy or the competition intimidated.  My editor at The Fiscal Times asked me to handicap Christie’s potential in the next cycle, and with plenty of caveats about the foolishness of making predictions this far out, I predict that Christie will have a very difficult time if he chooses to run.  That’s due in large part to the potential plethora of choices at the gubernatorial level:

By that time, Scott Walker may be in his second term in Wisconsin, if he can turn the hat trick and win a third statewide re-election after winning his first term a second time in a recall.  Walker’s victory on public-employee union reforms made him a darling of grassroots groups, and unlike Christie, Walker didn’t shift to the center when it came time to stand for an election.

Indiana’s Mike Pence, who got some brief attention as a potential 2012 candidate while leading House conservatives, has successfully transitioned to lead a key Rust Belt state as governor.  Susana Martinez got a star turn at the Republican national convention last year and made the most of it, giving the GOP a chance to nominate a Hispanic female to the ticket.  All three will start with more grassroots credibility than Christie, even if they don’t quite measure up to Christie’s star power in the media.

Even more to the point, don’t expect a couple of steps to the right on policy to mollify Republican and conservative activists.  While Christie will continue to have a high media profile, the people who actually volunteer as organizers won’t be impressed with that achievement.

The failure of Mitt Romney, another Northeastern Republican moderate, in 2012 to defeat a weakened Obama will further discredit Christie.  When it comes to playing in the primaries, Christie may not be the heavyweight people assume–especially with the wealth of alternatives–no matter what the scales say by January 2016.

Your thoughts are, as always, appreciated in the comments.