Sarah Palin addresses a tea party rally in New Hampshire on Labor Day.

Editor’s Note: S.E. Cupp is author of “Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity” and co-author of “Why You’re Wrong About the Right.” She is a columnist at the New York Daily News, senior writer at the Daily Caller, and a political commentator.

Story highlights

Are Chris Christie and Sarah Palin running for president, or aren't they?

Their refusal to answer definitively is damaging to the GOP, said S.E. Cupp

Conservatives haven't been able to invest fully in the candidates who are running, Cupp said

Cupp: Palin just has to decide, and Christie just has to endorse someone

CNN  — 

It’s happened. The build-up and anxiety over whether folks like Chris Christie and Sarah Palin are going to throw their hats in the ring for the GOP presidential primary has reached critical mass.

And now, the will-they-or-won’t-they game has flipped from fun and energizing to damaging to the party. Christie and Palin now do conservatives more harm than good.

With the question marks still lingering in the ether, and pundits on both sides of the aisle still performing their daily trapeze act – swinging back and forth between “yes, he’s running” and “no, she isn’t” – the focus on Christie and Palin has taken valuable resources and attention away from the rest of the field.

Because of those question marks, conservatives haven’t been able to invest fully in the candidates who are running. They haven’t been able to imagine one of them as president. They’ve held back support, money and endorsements, because they still don’t know that the field is settled.

S.E. Cupp

And Christie and Palin are not entirely without fault. Though the bombastic New Jersey governor had been emphatic in his promise not to run for months, despite our continued speculation that he was fibbing, now his friends are saying otherwise. And he’s certainly been acting like a candidate, traveling the country for big-ticket fundraisers, speaking at the exalted Reagan Library, and telling his supporters that he’s “hearing” and “feeling” their pleas.

If he really wanted to convince us he wasn’t considering it, all he has to do is endorse someone else. It’s really very simple.

As for Palin, she’s been forthright about her contemplation, admitting that she’s thinking about it but hasn’t yet decided.

As formidable and admirable as both Christie and Palin are, it’s reached the point where they’ve both become more than just a distraction. They’re now a detriment.

How sincere will it look, after all, in two months when the field is set and both are absent from it, and conservatives suddenly try to pretend that they are satisfied and enthusiastic about Rick Perry, Mitt Romney or Michele Bachmann? Sure, we begged Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Sarah Palin and everyone else to run before, but now we’re totally behind one of these guys. If there were ever a gift to present to President Obama, it’s the gift of obvious apathy.

Time’s up, governors. If Chris Christie and Sarah Palin want to run, get in there. If not, definitively and convincingly take your names out of the running. Conservatives need to begin the arduous job of whittling down the field and picking their frontrunner. The fact that there have been five GOP straw polls in as many weeks with as many different winners is proof that these unanswered questions are creating a dangerous ambivalence among conservative voters.

The breathless speculation has been fun, but now it’s time to get to work.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of S.E. Cupp.