In the wake of Thursday night's GOP presidential debate, many conservatives are reportedly left feeling flat over the choice of Republican candidates on offer -- having been particularly disheartened by Texas Governor Rick Perry's performance, which critics like National Review editor Rich Lowry assert was replete with a number of "notably bad answers."
The arguably lackluster performances by frontrunners Perry, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Mitt Romney, have prompted a whirlwind of speculation as to whether New Jersey Governor Chris Christie might reconsider throwing his hat in the ring after all. And it seems more than a handful of conservatives are hoping he'll do just that.
Perhaps the most scathing critique of the top GOP contenders came in a special editorial from The Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who wrote:
...no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him. And Mitt Romney remains, when all is said and done, a technocratic management consultant whose one term as governor produced Romneycare. He could rise to the occasion as president. Or not.
But in a week in which markets collapsed, Solyndra exploded, our Middle East policy was in meltdown, the Iranian nuclear threat became more urgent, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff fingered our “ally” Pakistan as a sponsor of terror against American forces in Afghanistan—none of the candidates really seemed up to the moment, either politically or substantively. In the midst of a crisis, we’re getting politics as usual—and a somewhat subpar version of politics as usual at that.
Here, just a month before filing deadlines arrive, Kristol was setting the stage for the question others are likely asking: Who else is there?
For Kristol, Lowry, former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson and a smattering of other prominent conservatives, that answer could be Christie -- who, according to Kristol "is, in every sense, a big man for a big job." Even The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin said Christie can "raise the money and the roof."
Adding to the Christie-dialogue, last week The Blaze reported Gerson as saying:
“I don’t think Republicans regard this as a strong field,” Gerson said, during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.“ ”So there is still talk of people getting in the race. Not just [Sarah] Palin but last week, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey was in Chicago and had two meetings with serious Republican groups from the Midwest.”
“He is actively, I think, considering getting in this race, which would throw things open once more,” he added. “But the desire for that to happen … it shows that they are not happy with the current field, they think it needs to be filled out in an important way. I don’t know if that is going to happen, but the desire for many Republicans to expand this field shows that they are not content with it.”
So is all this just futile speculation, or is Christie seriously reconsidering a presidential bid? While not citing sources, according to an article in Newsmax Friday, Christie says he will let major Republican donors know if he is deciding to enter the Republican primary within the coming days. The article also notes that over the course of the last several weeks, key Republican donors have been urging the governor to reconsider and that, in an effort to woo the governor, a top-secret meeting was conducted with Christie and several Republican billionaires:
A source familiar with the meeting suggested that Christie seemed inclined to enter the race but said he needed more time.
Christie promised to make a final decision "within two weeks," the source said.
Another source involved in GOP fundraising tells Newsmax that that uncommitted fundraisers and donors have been receiving phone calls from top political aides to Christie, seeking their feedback about his possible entry into the race.
But perhaps the most compelling piece of "evidence" Christie-fans claim is proof that the governor might reconsider a 2012 presidential bid, came during a recent reporters' forum at the Heritage Foundation with Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, where Christie disparaged the current GOP field and spoke about what the country really needs.
"I think what the country is thirsting for, more than anything else right now, is someone of stature and credibility to tell them that and say, 'Here's where I want us to go to deal with this crisis,'" Christie said.
"The fact that nobody yet who's running for president, in my view, has done that effectively is why you continue to hear people ask Daniels if he'll reconsider and ask me if I'll reconsider."
Daniels, who has seemed more definitive in his refusal to run, gave his "good bud" Christie two thumbs-up stating, "I'm not taking 'no' from Christie," Daniels said. "I'm taking 'not yet.'"
Daniels also told the Post's Rubin that “Chris is the best example [of a bold leader] that I can think of. He shares my view that too many of our colleagues are too timid.”
But while rumors of a Christie presidential bid abound, just last month the Huffington Post reported that the Christie camp vehemently denied claims that the governor will run in 2012.
“It’s completely untrue — one hundred percent that is not true,” Christie adviser Mike Duhaime said.
Much can change in a month, however, and it is possible that as the spark fizzles out on the current Republican frontrunners, Christie might now see an opportunity to fill a growing void. If Newsmax is correct, maybe we will finally know with a greater degree of certainty in the next two weeks. Or, worst case scenario, we will have our answer before filing deadlines arrive in one month's time.