The Republican primary race was marked by fake candidates (Donald Trump), non-candidates (Mitch Daniels), and fringe candidates (Gary Johnson, Ron Paul) before Rick Perry got into the race. Conservatives were excited after his announcement in August; the conservative blog Hot Air declared he was the "real deal" who could forcefully attack President Obama. The American Spectator said he was "far better positioned than Romney to debate the President." They must not have ever seen Perry debate. After his Texas swag could not carry him through Thursday's event, some conservatives are back to pining for their fantasy candidates. Chief among them: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Perry's halting, stumbling performance, National Review editor Rich Lowry writes at Fox News, "will stoke more speculation about... Christie possibly entering the race." It sure did.
The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin writes, "I thought there was some possibility that if the stars aligned that [Christie] might get in.... In the wake of last night's debate, that possibility increased by a factor of 10. (Yeah, yeah, 10 times zero is zero, but it was never zero.)" The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, too, was inspired by the Orlando debate to think again about Christie. Kristole says he got an email from a "bright young conservative" saying, "I'm watching my first GOP debate...and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!" Kristol says he's left asking "with a month left before filing deadlines: Is that all there is?"
Likewise, on Thursday night, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot again urged Christie to step up. Gigot seems to be in a teeny bit of denial -- Christie has said a million times he's not running, most recently on Thursday -- arguing, "For a man who says he's not running for president, Chris Christie isn't keeping a low profile. [He'll] give presidential tea-leaf readers another chance to speculate about his intentions when he delivers a speech next Tuesday at the Reagan Presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif."
NBC News' Chuck Todd and Mark Murray note that "Gigot is about as close to being a potential pied piper for what's left of the GOP donor establishment community as there is right now." If so, that establishment thinks the nomination is Christie's if he wants it. Gigot concludes, "Christie may decide for personal and political reasons not to run. But one of those reasons should not be his electoral prospects. The GOP nomination is eminently winnable, and on current economic trends so is the presidency."
But those pulling for Christie to run might want to listen to former presidential candidate Lamar Alexander, the senator from Tennessee. Talking to ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Alexander explained Perry's problems: "There's a big difference between being governor and being president, even if you're from a big state... Going from governor to presidential primaries is like going from eighth grade basketball to the NBA finals and you have to be careful. People expect something of a president." That's something Christie, if no one else, is surely keeping in mind.