Who Benefits from Chris Christie's Decision to Opt Out?

Article excerpt

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie decided not to run for president - a decision that appears to solidify the Republican field. But in whose favor? Candidates are now jockeying for position.

Which candidate gets the Christie supporters - and money?

That's the big question, in the wake of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's announcement Tuesday that he will not seek the Republican presidential nomination.

By many accounts, big money has been sitting on the sidelines, Governor Christie's for the asking, if he had been willing to run for president. Names like Kenneth Langone, the founder of Home Depot, hedge fund founder Paul Singer, and industrialist and tea party funder David Koch were reportedly instrumental in the campaign to get Christie to run.

Now that their man has given them a firm "no," it's time to decide where to direct the checks. The field is likely set, save for a possible run by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, but she's no longer seen as a major player even if she does run. The big money folks want someone who's electable. Then there are the garden- variety Republican voters still weak in their support of a candidate or even completely undecided.

On both accounts, it's impossible to predict what the undecided will do. Those perhaps leaning toward Texas Gov. Rick Perry may wait to see how he does in the next two debates, Oct. 11 and 18. If he continues to stumble and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continues to turn in solid but uninspiring debate performances, maybe a consensus forms around Mr. Romney as the most electable.

And don't forget businessman Herman Cain, who is now tied for second with Governor Perry at 16 percent, behind Mr. Romney's 25 percent, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Romney has held steady at 25 - not a good sign for someone who needs to grow support - but he's better off than Perry, who dropped a whopping 13 percentage points in the last month, while Mr. Cain gained 12 points.

Perry has also been losing ground in the Gallup poll's measure of "positive intensity" - the difference between the percentage of voters who view a candidate favorably and those who view him or her negatively, among voters who are familiar with the candidate. …