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Why conservatives want Christie in 2012

By Ed Rollins, CNN Senior Political Contributor
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Chris Christie for president?
  • Ed Rollins says New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is drawing attention
  • He says his bold leadership is creating clarity rather than confusion
  • Rollins: Christie is carrying through on campaign promises to cut spending
  • He says governor is making wise choice to stay and finish job in New Jersey

Editor's note: Ed Rollins, a senior political contributor for CNN, is senior presidential fellow at the Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University. He is a principal with the Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations firm. He was White House political director for President Ronald Reagan and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

New York (CNN) -- This week, the political agenda has shifted from Egypt and other Middle East countries in turmoil back to Washington and our own version of democracy -- and a different kind of turmoil.

The president's budget has been presented to the Congress. Republicans are calling it dead on arrival. The House Republicans have put their version of a drastically altered budget for this year on the table (the Democrats failed to pass a final budget last year), and the battle will begin quickly.

The Senate says it won't pass the House version, and the president has threatened to veto it if it reaches his desk. So much for bipartisanship. The budget sets the country's priorities, and both sides are passionate about their spending programs.

To the public, nothing is more confusing than budget talk, and the vast majorities are not going to pay a lot of attention. All they know is that Congress spends trillions more than the government takes in, and that is a formula for disaster for them and their kids and grandkids.

Unfortunately with both parties arguing their points of view with all sorts of different numbers and assumptions, the end result is more confusion for the public.

But one man who is breaking through all this confusion and creating clarity by his leadership style is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

One man who is...creating clarity by his leadership style is New Jersey's governor
--Ed Rollins
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A new face on the national scene, Christie attracts media attention and makes conservative activists long for his candidacy for president in 2012.

The buzz at last weekend's CPAC convention, the annual Washington meeting of 12,000 conservatives and libertarians, was for someone who was not there.

No it wasn't Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee, who didn't attend, or Mitt Romney, who did. The three former governors who are leading in most public polls all have their supporters if they choose to run.

But Christie, the brash, brawny former crime fighter, is the one who has become the darling of the parties, Tea or establishment, and is now the star attraction at fundraisers coast to coast.

Although he has been in office just over a year, he is the role model for the newly elected Republican governors. His secret: Doing what he said he would do in the campaign. In other words -- fix the problems and do what's right and not what's political.

Christie was a corruption-fighting U.S. attorney for New Jersey before his election. During his six-year tenure, he won convictions or guilty pleas from 130 public officials, including the county executives of Essex and Hudson counties, the former mayor of Newark and several state senators. He was bipartisan. It didn't matter if you were a Democrat or a Republican; if you were crooked, he was going to prosecute you.

The governorship of New Jersey is one of the most powerful state leaders in the country. But that power is needed because New Jersey is one of the most difficult states to govern with a multitude of overlapping governmental entities, tough state and municipal labor unions, some of the highest taxes in the country and severely underfunded pension plans.

When Christie took office, his state faced an $11 billion shortfall. His approach was to declare a state of emergency and start reducing state spending. No new taxes was his campaign promise, and he has lived up to that commitment. He has taken on the powerful state employee unions and is fighting against automatic teacher tenure.

He added to his popularity when he told the federal government to keep its billions and killed a $9 billion tunnel project under the Hudson River for commuter trains. The project was the most expensive transportation project in the country. Christie said his citizens couldn't afford it, and he didn't want them liable for potential billions in overruns. He said "Thanks but no thanks!"

And, in a way, that is what he has said to everyone who has urged him to run for president in 2012. Just Wednesday he declared again that he had no interest in the 2012 race in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, but this just makes his supporters and fans want him more.

I think Christie's choice shows great wisdom: Finish the job you just started, get re-elected in three years and the future is wide open.

The Republican Governors Association just named him the vice chairman for policy alongside Chairman Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi.

Both are big men with big ideas who should help remake the Republican Party. It's like having two giant tackles in the offensive line opening up holes for our future candidates and revitalizing a party that's been brain dead for more than a few years.

Haley is the most skilled politician in the country, and with Christie at his side, they can meet the challenge Christie has laid down: "As a party, it is put up or shut up time!"

As a fat man myself, I admire these guys who are not talking about diets or jogging programs. The only diet they are advocating is one for the bloated state and federal budgets.

But the best counsel Christie gave in his AEI speech were these words, which should be a mantra for the president and the Congress:

"Leadership today in America has to be about doing the big things and being courageous. ... Leadership is not about waiting."

We may have to wait a while for Christie to run for president, or maybe he will never run, but New Jersey will benefit from his leadership and other political leaders will do well to follow his example.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Rollins.