Sunday, May 1, 2011

After Trump Debut, Field Still Wide Open for Christie

The New York Times reports that Republican leaders, activists and donors are encouraging more candidates to get into the race. The story is located here.

Summary: Republican leaders believe Obama is beatable, but they fear a weak field of candidates will prevent them from taking advantage of the opportunity. They perceive a void in the field, and are appalled that Trump has gotten so much attention; Trump's actions have embarrassed the Party. Some are encouraging Mitch Daniels to get into the race. Mike Huckabee is reportedly telling his own supporters to be patient. Meanwhile, prominent Republicans are hopeful that some candidates who publicly said they are not running will get into the race anyway. Among these candidates is Chris Christie.

Analysis: When it comes to selecting a nominee for president, the Republican Party is currently divided and dissatisfied. There is a distinction between these two attributes: They are divided because support is split among many different candidates, with no one candidate picking up much steam; they are dissatisfied because they are not enthusiastic about their current options.

There is a void waiting to be filled. Republicans are open to the prospect of a new candidate who will both unite the Party and give them a reason to be enthusiastic. This is not the first time a Party has been presented with this challenge. Sometimes the void is filled, sometimes not. The most recent example is the Republican field in 2008, where no one filled the void. John McCain was sort of a consensus candidate, but he could neither unite nor excite the Party.

Trump had the opportunity to try filling the void, but he has so far failed (due to the challenges outlined in a previous post). He certainly filled the empty space in terms of media attention. But now that Trump has come under increasing scrutiny and attacks from all sides, it does not appear he was able to gain the traction he needed during that window of opportunity. There is still as big a vacuum as ever.

These are precisely the conditions that Christie needs. Due to his responsibilities in New Jersey--where he took office in January 2010--he cannot appear to pursue a presidential run so early. Instead, the Party must exhaust all of its options and beg Christie to "save" it by entering the race at the last possible moment.

As long as the Republican primary voters feel as they currently do, it is probable Christie will enter the race and win the nomination. On April 17, Elephant Watcher analyzed the political landscape and projected Christie would win the nomination. No significant changes have occurred since then. Elephant Watcher calculates Christie has a 60% chance of winning the nomination.