Chris Christie and the Perils of Presidential Prime Time: The Ticker

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By Francis Wilkinson

With Texas Governor Rick Perry stumbling on the campaign trail and in his first two debates, some prominent Republicans are again voicing hopes that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will enter the presidential contest. At a meeting with Bloomberg View editors this week, Ohio Governor John Kasich said he'd like to see Christie in the race. "He has a certain magic about him," Kasich said.

It was only a short while ago that many deemed Perry a chiseled exemplar of Republicanism with perfect political pitch. Back in June, the Wall Street Journal's John Fund observed, "Perry knows how to play the base of the Republican Party like a finely tuned musical instrument." Pundits lined up to tell everyone north of El Paso about Perry's "uncanny political instincts" and his mastery of "retail politics."

But as Perry is learning, running for president is hard -- even for a guy who has been governor for a decade and has never lost a race. His attack on Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, whose conduct Perry called "almost treasonous," triggered condemnations from Karl Rove and other conservatives, and remarks on Social Security, global warming and creationism have fueled a first impression that he is gaffe-prone.

Christie, who appears determined, for now, to resist Republican entreaties, might find the transition harder still. Texas is home to 20 media markets, including major ones in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio. Austin supports an aggressive state press corps, including the Texas Tribune, Texas Observer and Texas Monthly.

New Jersey, by contrast, is wedged between the giant Philadelphia and New York markets, both of which treat the Garden State as a secondary story. It has no major media market of its own and the number of reporters covering Trenton has shrunk in recent years to around 15. So while the state is the 11th largest by population, and is home to a multitude of movers and shakers, its top politicians often get less media scrutiny than those of other big states. And as Perry has discovered, being covered daily by the national press corps, and being grilled by big-league opponents on network-televised debates, can take some getting used to.


-0- Sep/16/2011 12:43 GMT