Nate Silver asked yesterday whether Christie would be the anti-Romney or anti-Perry candidate. He ends his post this way:
Mr. Romney could still win under this view if several candidates split the conservative vote and he has the moderate vote to himself. But the entry of Mr. Christie would complicate his equation and lower his odds, while posing less threat to Mr. Perry’s campaign.
Christie really isn’t running, so it’s a moot point now, but Silver seems right about this. Christie boosters expect that he would quickly become the consensus candidate. They never explain why this will happen, and they overlook the liabilities Silver lists, but the hope seems to be that Christie will simply replace Romney and siphon off support from Perry at the same time. In other words, the Christie candidacy some Republicans are clamoring to have is a fantasy.
The effect that Christie’s entry would have would be to undermine Romney enough without driving him from the race entirely, and this would then throw the contest to Perry. What Silver doesn’t mention and none of the Christie boosters address is why they need Christie for this. If Christie boosters are so desperate to find an alternative to Romney and Perry, and they’re willing to accept someone with some moderate positions in his record, Huntsman is already running, he has more experience, and he has fewer liabilities than Christie. Of course, no one seriously thinks that primary voters are going to rally behind Huntsman, so it’s not clear why anyone thinks they would have rallied behind Christie.
Huntsman’s candidacy is showing that there is not much demand for another center-right candidate in addition to Romney. That’s one more reason why the demand for a Christie candidacy makes no sense. Since Christie isn’t running, and Huntsman isn’t having much success, the remaining conservative contenders are more likely to draw support away from Perry and hobble him enough to let Romney eke out enough wins to secure the nomination.