Oh, by the way: Christie's awfully close to jumping into the presidential race

You know I’ve got a hopeless, probably terminal case of Mittmentum! but we should probably pay some attention to this guy too. I think, in their heart of hearts, both Jeb Bush and Romney thought that signaling their intentions to run early might force Christie to rethink his candidacy. The more wealthy Republicans each of them vacuum up, the less money there is out there for him. At some point, theoretically, everyone in the donor class would suddenly be spoken for and Christie would have no choice but to pass on the race, making the job of consolidating the center easier for RomBush.

No dice, though. The big guy’s getting in. If he wasn’t, would there be passages like this in the State of the State address he delivered this afternoon?

America’s leadership in the world is called into question because of a pattern of indecision and inconsistency. During this time of uncertainty it seems our leaders in Washington would rather stoke division for their own political gain. And this culture of divisiveness and distrust has seeped into our communities and our neighborhoods.

As I traveled the country over the last year, this anxiety was the most palpable emotion I saw and felt. I saw it on the streets of Chicago and felt it in the suburbs of Maryland. I heard it from farmers in Kansas and from teachers in Colorado. I felt it from veterans in Maine and from workers in Arkansas. But the wisest words came from an 82 year old woman in Florida. She grabbed my hand and asked me a simple, but powerful question: “What’s happened to our country? We used to control events. Now events control us.”

If only we had a president who could control events again. But who?

We need to address this anxiety head on. We need to renew the spirit and the hopes of our state, our country and our people. A renewal of our commitment to the hard-working families who are the backbone of our state. A renewal of our commitment to the simple belief that our people deserve better than a bloated national government that imposes costs on our states which suffocate our people…

We need a New Jersey renewal and an American renewal.

Renewal, huh? By gum, I do believe I sense a national campaign theme, one subtly aimed at the anything-but-new Mitt Romney and Bush family. If you’re still not convinced that that’s proof that he’s running, though, how about the fact that Christie only wanted to talk to national press before today’s speech? Or that, er, a “Chris Christie for President” organization apparently already exists and just recruited the current finance chairman of the RNC to serve as its own finance chair?

The New York Observer has learned that Chris Christie for President has landed a highly coveted name to be its finance chairman for a 2016 campaign that is quickly taking shape. As soon as the end of this week, Mr. Christie will announce that Dallas investor Ray Washburne will be its new finance chair, tasked with raising the $80-100 million it is expected to cost to win the GOP nomination…

As a prominent Southerner, he immediately establishes Mr. Christie’s credentials as a national candidate, able to tap wells outside his Northeast home base. He also makes clear that the New Jersey governor will compete everywhere for support. Many will undoubtedly have expected prominent Texas fundraisers to sign on with Jeb Bush, whose family branches in the state are obvious, or Texas Senator Ted Cruz, or Texas Governor Rick Perry, all of whom are widely expected to run for president, as well.

Then there’s the ideological box. Mr. Washburne is the co-founder, along with George Seay III, of Legacy, the group of “affluent Evangelicals” who became an important screening committee in the aughts, as well as a critical funding source for presidential hopefuls. Mr. Washburne’s endorsement will send signals that Christie has been koshered as a conservative to primary voters worried about the right-wing bona fides of a governor from a high-tax, deeply blue state.

Hiring Washburne is Christie’s way of signaling that there will indeed be enough money to go around between him, Jeb, and Mitt, and not just northeastern money either. He’s aiming to cash some checks right in Rick Perry’s and Ted Cruz’s backyard.

Here’s Mark Halperin arguing, surreally, that Romney jumping in is good news for Christie. Er, how? A two-man battle for the center would have left Christie as the default “anyone but Bush” candidate, well positioned to pick up votes from RINOs who are tired of the Bush dynasty and from “somewhat conservative” voters who worry that the Cruz wing of the party can’t beat Jeb head-to-head. Now, with Romney in the race, there’s another option for those voters; instead of arguing that one candidate is old news, Christie needs to argue that two are, and both of them will likely be better armed financially than he will. I could kinda sorta see him benefiting if he had a devoted 25 percent following a la Ron Paul in 2012. In that case, the more the rest of the center is splintered, the more his 25 percent becomes a potentially winning coalition in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. Problem is, he doesn’t have that following. Per Nate Silver, he’s considerably more moderate than either Bush or Romney, leaving him vulnerable to an “anyone but Christie” surge on the right even if he polls well early, and he seems no more electable at this point than either of those other men are. Which Republican voters are sitting around thinking, “I want someone to the left of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, who’s also less likable than they are”?

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