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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: By 2016 he will be ready for a tilt at the presidency — but will Americans wait that long? 

The news that Sarah Palin has decided not to run for president is the greatest non-event of the campaign so far, since there was never any danger of her wrecking her highly lucrative brand in the way that a presidential run would have done overnight. She might have teased and flirted, turning up to the Iowa straw poll at the same time as the other, genuine candidates, but she never had the slightest intention of actually entering a race in which she was bound to lose badly, with its disastrous knock-on effects for her Fox News contract, her book deals and her TV reality show. These all depend on her not being humiliated nationally, which would have been the inevitable result of a run. With only 21 per cent of Americans having a favourable view of her (according to the latest CBS poll, a number that hasn't altered much in a year), there was no possible way that she was going to be chosen by Republicans — a full 33 per cent of whom have an "unfavourable" view of her — to run against President Obama, who for all his bad poll showings on the economy is still personally liked by the majority of Americans. 

Far more interesting news, and important for the future, was Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey's decision not to enter the race. When the historian James Pope-Hennessy was murdered by a rent-boy in 1974, his former lover James Lees-Milne pronounced himself "shocked, but not surprised".

It is sometimes possible to be both, and that is how the Republican Party feels about Christie's definitive, last and utterly final decision not to seek the  Republican nomination. They are shocked because they assumed that the almost open field must turn the head of so obviously ambitious a politician. They are not surprised because last November Christie said: "Short of suicide, I don't really know what I have to do to convince you people that I'm not running. I'm not running." The fact that he chose to end the present speculation with the words "Now is not my time" implies that 2016 might be, assuming Obama is re-elected next year.

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