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Calls for Christie to Run Echo Past Presidential Races

This week’s cries for New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie to jump into the race for president are just the latest in a long strand of entreaties to prominent political figures to “save” their party, and even the country, by joining the fray.

Already in this election cycle, governors or former governors Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Jeb Bush of Florida and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas have resisted varying degrees of “pleading” that they become candidates. Daniels was the subject of probably the most energetic and concerted campaign, so much so that he ultimately disappointed scores of supporters, including former President George W. Bush, all of whom had actively and repeatedly lobbied him to say yes.

This is reminiscent of election scenarios going back to the earliest days of the republic, and certainly in recent decades, when politicians from former New York Governor Mario Cuomo (who considered but declined to run in 1988 and again in 1992) to former Secretary of State Colin Powell (who decided against running in 1996) let down legions of fans. In fact, Cuomo won the nickname “Hamlet on the Hudson” for what one pundit described as his “quadrennial dithering.” Powell told a packed news conference in late ’95 that after wrestling “back and forth,” he had looked “deep into my own soul” and concluded that he lacked “a passion and commitment … for political life.”

In every case, the pleading comes from prominent party leaders — and citizens — worried that the existing crop of candidates either can’t win, or don’t represent their own values and views. It’s not Tea Party members and sympathizers who are urging Governor Christie to change his mind. It appears to be Republicans who are worried that the more moderate of the two current frontrunners, Mitt Romney, doesn’t have long-term staying power against President Obama, or that the Tea Party ideology of candidates like Rick Perry won’t appeal to the broad center of the American electorate.

Christie told a crowd at the Reagan Presidential Library last night that he was “listening to every word” of what his pleaders are saying to him, but that ultimately the decision “has to reside inside me.”

What’s certain is that if Christie does decide to run, the day he enters the race will be his easiest. He realizes that from then on, his record in and out of office and every public comment he’s ever made will be scoured by reporters, and he’ll be expected to have positions on and be able to speak articulately about the most controversial national and international issues of the day. Not only that, he’ll have to spend countless hours phoning potential donors, his family members, staff and friends will be subject to scrutiny, and a group of Republicans (named Romney, Perry and Bachmann, among others) will be doing all they can to see him fail.

In other words, welcome to the presidential campaign, Governor!

Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images.

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