While a frequent flurry of Sarah Palin sound bites and Michael Steele gaffes dominate the hype surrounding the Republican party's leadership void, many point to New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie as a serious potential leader of the GOP.
Since his first budget address on March 16th, conservatives have applauded Christie's adamancy of spending cuts, and they particularly admire his battle with the state's teachers union over $820 million in state education cuts.
Conservative editorial pages in The Weekly Standard lionized Christie as a "rock star," and the Wall Street Journal canonized him with a Ronald Regan comparison.
To meet the proposed education cuts, Christie demanded that teachers take a one-year pay freeze and begin contributing to their pensions and health benefits. The teachers union disregarded the demands, so the governor urged people to vote against local school budgets. Last Tuesday, voters rejected 316 of 541, or 58 percent, of the proposed budgets, an unprecedented rejection rate.
Conservative columnist, George Will, supported Christie's demands on teachers' pay in a Washington Post column, and also commended the governor for closing a $2.2 billion gap with spending freezes and cuts.
Marc Thiessen, also a columnist for the Washington Post and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, said that the school budget defeats gave the governor "a strong mandate to push through his reforms."
Although Thiessen's piece suggested the possibility of a 2012 presidential run for Christie — an idea based on the recent ubiquity of the governor's name in national media — he also warned about premature presidential presumptions, using California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's ephemeral popularity as an example.
But whether it's a future presidential candidate or just a rational visionary, the GOP needs a leader. And as Peter Applebom of the New York Times' noted, "If the Republicans ever hope to be more than the Party of No, they should be paying careful attention to how Mr. Christie fares in his demolition derby in Jersey."