But the looming Romney-Perry showdown throws Christie’s strengths into sharp relief. Unlike the unloved Romney, Christie has a huge cheering section among movement conservatives, who love his combative style enough to forgive his ideological deviations. Unlike Perry, he’s campaigned and governed outside the Republican Party’s Sun Belt strongholds. Unlike both, he embodies the kind of voter who swings elections in America — not a Mormon businessman or a cowboy-booted Texan, but a Catholic with middle-class roots born one state over from the Rust Belt.
Moreover, serving as the budget-cutting Republican governor of a Democratic state is a far, far better preparation for what awaits the next president than either Perry’s small-government idyll or Romney’s permanent campaign. In his brief New Jersey tenure, Christie has accomplished more, against more determined opposition, amid more media scrutiny and with more resilient poll numbers than almost any Great Recession politician.
Six months ago, the best argument for a Christie campaign was that the Republican Party needed him. That wasn’t nearly enough to justify the risk. But if the country needs him? Then it might be worth considering.