The Corner

‘I already know I could win’

Dan already wrote a piece about it, but Chris Christie was in the office last week. I just wanted to quote him more extensively on 2012. I asked him whether he knew that, given the moment, there is a serious chance he could win the Republican nomination if he ran. This is what he said in full:

Yes. Believe me, I’ve been interested in politics my whole life. I see the opportunity. But I just don’t believe that’s why you run. Like I said at AEI, I have people calling me and saying to me, “Let me explain to you how you could win.” And I’m like, “You’re barking up the wrong tree. I already know I could win.” That’s not the issue. The issue is not me sitting here and saying, “Geez, it might be too hard. I don’t think I can win.” I see the opportunity both at the primary level and at the general election level. I see the opportunity. 

But I’ve got to believe I’m ready to be president, and I don’t. And I think that that’s the basis you have to make that decision. I think when you have people who make the decision just based upon seeing the opportunity you have a much greater likelihood that you’re going to have a president who is not ready. And then we all suffer from that. Even if you’re a conservative, if your conservative president is not ready, you’re not going to be good anyway because you’re going to get rolled all over the place in that town.

I just see how much better I get at this job every day, and I do, and I learn things. If not every day, at least every week. And my wife and I were actually talking about this last night. We had dinner together with the family after the [New Jersey budget] speech and she was saying how much better she thought I was yesterday than I had been before in my speech. She said, “You are getting better.”

That’s just the nature of life. So, I see the opportunity, I recognize and understand it and I’m really flattered that people think of me that way. But, if I don’t believe it in here [pointing to his heart], I’m not going to be a good candidate on top of everything else.

And remember in the context of sitting there on election night 2009, and my wife and I were convinced we were going to lose. It is a bit to get your arms around, too. You’re a successful United States attorney and then within a year of that time you have people talking about you and I was running around campaigning for folks. All of these handmade “Christie for President” signs in the crowds when I was in Michigan and Iowa and all the other places that I went, Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida. It’s also been overwhelming, too.

Like I said before, I am who I am and people have to trust, they don’t have to but they should trust, my instincts on this. I know me better than anyone else knows me. If I felt like I was ready, I’d go, but I’m not. But I’m also not going to go if I don’t think I’m ready.

When I walked into the Governor’s office last January there have been some difficult days in the job. There has never been a day where I’ve felt like I’m over my head, I don’t know what to do, I’m lost. I don’t know whether I’d feel the same way if I walked into the Oval Office a year and a half from now. So, unless you get yourself to the point where you really believe you have a shot to be successful, then I don’t think you have any business running for it.

On the readiness front, you can’t argue with what he feels, but I think he’s wrong. He’s at least as ready as Bill Clinton in 1991 (indecisive governor of a small state), George W. Bush in 1999 (decisive governor of big state, but in a very weak office), and Barack Obama in 2007 (no executive experience whatsoever). I joked with the governor that if he’s getting better every day, by November 2012, he’ll be ready to go. He laughed, but seemed unconvinced.

(Consider this another piece in my continuing series taking issue with the reasons non-candidates give for not running for president.)

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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