Christie's moment: It's now or never

None of this remotely means that winning his party’s nomination, much less the White House, would be a slam dunk for Christie. Getting a presidential campaign up and running from a standing start three months before the first votes are cast would be a monstrously daunting challenge. Christie’s unorthodoxies might be less attractive in a presidential candidate than a presidential chimera. As has been true of Perry, Christie’s lack of depth on foreign and national domestic policy might prove problematic. And his record in New Jersey has its share of soft spots, not least a state unemployment rate higher than the national average.

Then there is the matter of Christie’s health. Two months ago, the governor was hospitalized with breathing difficulties (he suffers from chronic asthma), and between that and what surely must qualify as his morbid obesity, it is reasonable to wonder if he is physically capable of bearing up to the brutal rigors of a presidential campaign. “I swear to God,” says one veteran campaign operative who is a Christie fan, “I’d be worried that if he runs, there’s a chance that it will kill him.”

Christie is acutely aware of all these reasons to stay put and stand pat. But he has also—finally, after having the point hammered home to him by various national figures, including more than one Democrat—come to realize that of all the variables in presidential politics, timing is the least prone to control but also the most crucial. As a Republican, and a controversial one, in a basically Democratic state, he will face a tough reelection fight in 2013. By the time the next presidential race rolls around, in other words, he may no longer be in office; and even if he is, there may either be a Republican incumbent in the White House or a Republican array of challengers considerably more formidable than the current one (featuring the likes of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rob Portman, John Kasich, Nikki Haley, and/or Bobby Jindal).