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2016 Presidential Election: Running?

New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Governor Chris ChristieGetty Images

The next Presidential Election looms just over two years away, and a week cannot pass without political reporters (like me) speculating concerning who is going to be in the race. Part of that is because politicians themselves fuel such speculation by forming committees to investigate the possibility of running; another part is the fact that Obama is now a "lame duck", in his sixth year in the office, and all two-term Presidents suffer falling popularity in year six even if they don't say and do things that upset a significant portion of the electorate. It also touches us here in New Jersey, because one of the names at the top of the speculation list is our governor, Chris Christie.

It's not news. Barbara Buono, who ran against him last year (remember her?) tried to make an issue of it, claiming that if re-elected for governor Christie would not serve his full term, leaving his Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno at the helm. He said then that he did not know what would happen in the four years of the gubernatorial term, that he had never run for President but could not say he never would. Polls at the time concluded that he had the best chance of all known Republicans to beat Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, should she decide to run, and the fact that as head of the national Republican Governor's Association and one of the most popular moderates in the party he has been making public appearances nationwide in support of other candidates tends to fuel speculation that he is attempting to build a better base.

Some people--not all of them Democrats--will argue that a Christie candidacy would mean that he abandoned his responsibilities in the state, as Buono predicted. It was barely relevant then, and is completely irrelevant now. Kim Guadagno would undoubtedly do well as governor, and in a state in which incumbency is the primary qualification for election to office Christie could do the Republican party a service by letting his lieutenant take the reins and make a name for herself before the 2017 race. We know little about her, but odds are good she is a capable administrator whose abilities to lead the state were considered when she was nominated. At least half of what we vote for in an executive is policy. There is no legitimate complaint if our governor leaves the state in the care of his lieutenant and becomes our President, or even attempts to do so.

Besides, there are probably very few readers out there who do not themselves want a promotion, and in the political world a promotion means being elected to a higher office. Christie has to this point done nothing that is specifically seeking the nomination, but if the party decides that it needs him, even in the second seat, it seems likely that he would do what any of us would do, and say yes. He can be as altruistic about it as the rest of us--you're pleased to be promoted from clerk to assistant manager because you believe you can contribute something to making it a better workplace in many ways, but that does not mean you aren't also pleased to get the raise and authority that comes with the job. Would you refuse the offer?

It remains to be seen whether Christie will enter the primary race, and there are those who believe he could win the national but cannot win the nomination (as against the host of candidates who can win the nomination but not the national). Yet if he pulls out of the present slump, the party might just pressure him into running.