Timing is everything, the saying goes.
As Chris Christie’s presidential bid collapses, I’m reminded of two politicians who were presented with the opportunity to run for president soon after their rise to national prominence, before they were quite ready.
One of them, Christie, chose to wait.
The other, Barack Obama, is finishing his second term in the White House.
Christie was elected New Jersey’s Governor in 2009. Within two years, he was a Republican rock star.
He was tough, charismatic, and seemingly effective in governing in a Democratic state.
But Christie decided he wasn’t ready. He’d just been inaugurated in 2010. How would it look to start campaigning for a 2012 presidential race?
If he waited four years, surely his success and appeal would only grow. He decided to pass.
Barack Obama was a state senator from Chicago when was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. His keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention made him a star, and soon he was being courted to run for president in 2008.
David Axelrod’s book “Believer” recounts how Obama looked at the politics and his own experience and felt he wasn’t ready. He’d be running a presidential campaign within two years of moving into his Senate office.
But as his support grew and the logic of a presidential bid became more compelling, his thinking changed. Maybe it wasn’t the right time, he said, but sometimes the time chooses you.
He ran and made history.
By the time the 2016 race approached and Christie decided to run for president, he was bloodied by the “bridgegate” scandal and other developments in New Jersey.
Read Matt Katz’s “Christie Tracker” blog for a smart list of ten reasons for Christie’s collapse in the New Hampshire primary. A number of them wouldn’t have been there if he’d made his move four years before.
Personally, I approve of politicians’ reluctance to go for the top job before they’ve earned some stripes in an important office. We ought to know what our candidates can do besides talk a good game.
But for an emerging political star, waiting can come with a cost.