New Jersey

And so it ends—not with a bang, but a wimp-out. Chris Christie, who had become the most courted reluctant Republican since Dwight Eisenhower, permanently closed the door Tuesday afternoon on a 2012 White House run: “Now is not my time. I have a commitment to New Jersey that I just can’t abandon.” A self-described “regular guy from New Jersey,” Christie exudes more self-confidence than even Rick Perry out shooting coyotes.

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A little over four years ago, a pair of wealthy businessmen made a foray into presidential politics on behalf of a charismatic, tough-talking, blue state Republican. Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone volunteered his considerable talents as fundraising chair of the candidate’s leadership PAC, while hedge fund billionaire Paul E. Singer served as the campaign’s east coast chairman. Charmed by the politician’s law and order bona fides, pro-business conservatism, and swing state appeal, the two billionaires helped raise an impressive $60.9 million dollars for their candidate in 2007.

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Dissatisfaction with a subpar field of presidential candidates has turned Republican eyes towards a potential new savior: Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. The growing speculation has been accompanied by discussion of Christie’s considerable girth.

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The people have spoken. Averaging the 19 estimates offered by readers in TNR's comment section for this blog--including one that, annoyingly, required me to convert from kilograms to pounds--I arrive at a crowd-sourced weight estimate for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: 334 pounds.  I initially planned to lower the mean figure by 10 points to correct for liberal bias. But on reflection I think there are probably two biases at work here. One is the liberal one, which would drive the estimates up. The other is a demographic one, which would drive the estimates down.

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Is Chris Christie too fat to be elected president? Amid reports that the New Jersey governor has become the latest choice of the anybody-but-Romney movement to try to derail the remarkably tenacious Mormon, Christie’s waistline has once again become a national news story. All the anxieties currently being attached to the governor’s weight, however, are likely overblown.

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The longing for a Chris Christie presidential run is baffling for many reasons. Among them is the fact that, ideologically, he actually isn't that conservative. As old friend Jonathan Chait writes today at his blog -- which, by now, you should have bookmarked -- Christie on Tuesday endorsed the Bowles-Simpson fiscal plan. As you may recall, Bowles-Simpson calls for reducing the deficit with a mix of spending cuts and, yes, tax increases. The ratio is roughly three-to-one, which makes it pretty conservative by my standards.

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Capital Tracks

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern AmericaBy Richard White (W.W. Norton, 660 pp., $35) I. The scene is iconic, known to many Americans even casually acquainted with their history. Locomotives of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads come engine grate to engine grate, separated by a mere railroad tie, at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

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Fat Presidents: A Survey

Amid speculation that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will enter the presidential race, there's been some talk about the weight issue. How does it affect his health? Would voters judge him harshly for it? (Jon Corzine tried and failed to make an issue of it, obliquely, in the 2009 gubernatorial election.) I prefer the historical approach.

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Georgia’s execution of Troy Davis last week was a poignant reminder of the continued presence of capital punishment in the United States. The Davis execution generated extraordinary interest because of troubling doubts about his guilt. Some observers have already speculated that the Davis case might serve as the spark that could reignite the movement to abolish the death penalty. But lost in some of the attention that the execution has generated is the death penalty’s unmistakable and precipitous decline over the past decade.

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Is Perry Debate-Proof?

Take a look at these results from a CNN poll conducted Sept. 23-25 (i.e., after the most recent GOP presidential debate).

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