“Faced with the prospect of a President Sarah Palin, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican party’s darling from another coast, shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“‘I don’t know, but it’s an amazing world,’ he said to Jimmy Fallon during a taping of Tuesday’s Late Night show.

“Christie brought his sharp tongue to the talk show Tuesday after the two traded barbs over Twitter when the Republican governor canceled a long-planned Hudson River train tunnel.”

“Less than a year into his tenure, Christie is no longer just a popular governor; he has become a national Republican star. His focus on fiscal issues and his reluctance to wade into the culture wars—during his gubernatorial campaign, he declined Palin’s offer to stump for him—have endeared him to members of the GOP’s sane wing. ‘The breakthrough he’s scoring in New Jersey is hugely promising,’ says David Frum, a conservative writer who fears that the Republican Party is being swallowed by the tea party. At the same time, Christie’s combativeness has made him a popular figure with the tea party in a way that someone like Indiana governor Mitch Daniels—who’s fought some of the same fiscal battles in his state but with the mien of an accountant—can only dream of. More than anything, Christie fills the longing, currently felt in all corners of the GOP (and beyond), for a stern taskmaster. ‘People just want to be treated like adults,’ Christie says. ‘They just want to be told the truth. They know we’re in tough times, and they’re willing to sacrifice. But they want shared sacrifice.'”

“This is no small consideration for Christie. He spent years positioning himself for New Jersey’s governorship, waiting until all of the pieces were in place and the timing was just right to make his move. He could have run in 2005; there was a gigantic void on the Republican side and most (but not all) party leaders were urging him to get in. But he resisted — wisely, as it turned out. By the fall of ’05, the political climate — nationally and especially in blue state New Jersey — was so poisoned against George W. Bush and the GOP that Christie would have been a sure loser against Jon Corzine. Instead, the task went to Doug Forrester, who was beaten by ten points. 2009 was different, though, with the Democrats running Washington and New Jersey voters — for the first time since before the 1994 GOP revolution — looking to vote against them. Christie won by four points — the second-largest margin for a Republican statewide candidate in the state in 37 years.

“Winning the governorship, in other words, was a landmark achievement for Christie. And by all measures, he enjoys being the king of Trenton. Sure, he’d probably trade it in for the White House, but he has to be careful. Because of New Jersey’s general hostility toward Republicans, he has little margin for error within the state. To abandon his job after a year and seek the GOP presidential nomination would ruin Christie’s standing with the Garden State’s electorate. If he were to then flame-out in the GOP primaries — say, six percent in Iowa and four percent in New Hampshire — he’d return home a statewide joke, and a clear lame duck heading into his ’13 reelection year.”

“Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie is the person Democrats fear most in the run for the White House in 2012.

“At a farewell reception and dinner for Senator Chris Dodd at the Irish Embassy this week I heard his name over and over…

“Christie is also moderate enough that they know he will not be easily consigned to the Tea Party tea chest when the going gets rough if he decided to run.

“But most of all he is seen as plain spoken, articulate and prepared to take on special interests. He’s now the candidate in the way Obama was for Democrats last time, unencumbered by baggage, liked at all levels of the party so far, but still somewhat of a mystery.”