When Sen. Barack Obama was still in his first year in the U.S. Senate, Illinois' senior senator, Sen. Dick Durbin, famously told him to seize the moment and run for the presidency.
"Do you really think sticking around the Senate for four more years and casting a thousand more votes will make you more qualified for president?" Durbin asked Obama?
We all know how that turned out. In American politics, it's usually all about grabbing at the brass ring of the presidency when it presents itself since it may not do so twice.
All of which makes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's refusal to do so that much more intriguing.
In an interview with the National Review Online's Rich Lowry recently, Christie acknowledged the opportunity that's before him. Even more intriguing, he said he sees the path not just to the Republican nomination but to the White House.
But he won't take it. As he has insisted ever since he started to be mentioned as a presidential possibility, he personally doesn't feel ready to be president, despite what anyone says.
An NRO excerpt:
Yes. Believe me, I've been interested in politics my whole life. I see the opportunity. But I just don't believe that's why you run. Like I said at AEI, I have people calling me and saying to me, "Let me explain to you how you could win." And I'm like, "You're barking up the wrong tree. I already know I could win." That's not the issue. The issue is not me sitting here and saying, "Geez, it might be too hard. I don't think I can win." I see the opportunity both at the primary level and at the general election level. I see the opportunity.
But I've got to believe I'm ready to be president, and I don't.
Wherever this desire in Christie to wait comes from, it's likely to add to his allure for many voters.
When so many politicians appear ambitious to a fault, when indeed Obama was criticized as such, Christie's decision makes him seem wise, humble and patient.
OK, maybe humility isn't the right word to attach to someone who says: "I already know I could win."
But it certainly doesn't hurt Christie to say he's not ready. Far better for him to say it than to have others say it. And he may be intentionally trying to make a comparison with Obama that fits the narrative of many of the president's Republican critics.
Another NRO excerpt:
I think when you have people who make the decision just based upon seeing the opportunity you have a much greater likelihood that you're going to have a president who is not ready. And then we all suffer from that. Even if you're a conservative, if your conservative president is not ready, you're not going to be good anyway because you're going to get rolled all over the place in that town.
By the way, if you haven't already read Matt Bai's breezily informative Christie profile in the New York Times magazine, you should.
The piece portrays Christie as a gifted politician able to win over even skeptical voters, simplify complex policy issues for the public and choose his opponents well.
Whether Bai describes a politician whose smart decision to wait led to a Christie presidency or caused him to eventually become another forgotten New Jersey governor, is anyone's guess at this stage. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.