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Will Christie Stoop to Conquer?

Every Democratic political junkie ought to take the time to watch a replay of Chris Christie's speech at the Ronald Reagan Library last night. It was a serviceable speech, which didn't offend any conservative ideological pieties and stopped just short of giving Republican members of Congress part of the blame for the country's problems.

But the interesting thing was less the speech than the ensuing Q&A, in which Christie got to show off his wit (a rare commodity in a GOP currently dominated by Mitt Romney and Rick Perry), and the audience got to show off its desperation for a new presidential candidate.

Just watching, you could sense the entire room holding its breath as a questioner practically got down on her knees to beg Christie to run for president. She didn't quite come out and say the current field is composed of bozos who couldn't beat Obama, but that was the clear implication. If there is an "electability caucus" in the GOP, it was heavily represented at the Reagan library last night.

Contrived or not, the question and its supplicatory tone put Christie in the enviable position of responding that it would be "egomaniacal" of him not to think about the wants and needs of people like the questioner. Should he now choose to repudiate a year's worth of denials and jump into the race, he can be expected to claim that turning his back on so many supplicants would have been arrogant, and that aspiring to become the most powerful person in the world is an act of humility! Pretty amazing, eh?

If he does run, Christie is going to have some real issues with past positions offensive to conservatives, as noted by Mike Tomasky today. He'd have to get a campaign together in record time, particularly since Florida Republicans appear poised to push the start date for the formal nominating process up until the very beginning of 2012, if not earlier. Candidates already in the field will go to unholy lengths to keep Christie from crashing the party. And you can expect a lot of people from New Jersey to come forward with less than flattering information about life under a Christie administration.

In some ways, Christie's appeal is very similar to that of Rudy Giuiliani's at the beginning of the 2008 cycle--except that Rudy got into the race at the very beginning, and was much better know nationally. And you saw how that turned out.

More than likely, Christie won't run, and will use this moment of national attention to keep himself on the "mentioned" list for every appointed position within the power of a Republican president for years to come. But the apparent panic which is leading a lot of big-shot Republican donors and pols to come beg him to run is a phenomenon that is interesting in itself.