• With: James Freeman, Jason Riley, Dan Henninger, Matt Kaminski, Bret Stephens

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," October 1, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the clamor for Christie. Calls continue for the New Jersey governor to jump into the GOP presidential race. He said he won't, so why do so many Republicans keep hoping?

    Plus, Rick Perry draws fires from his rivals for being soft on immigration. We'll take a closer look at his record as a border-state governor and his controversial stand on in-state tuition for illegals.

    All that, and anti-American cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in Yemen. Does the U.S. have Al Qaeda on the ropes?

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need you. Your country needs you to run for president.

    (APPLAUSE)

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I am Paul Gigot.

    He said he won't run, but the clamor for Chris Christie continues. That plea from a supporter after the New Jersey governor delivered a speech at the Reagan Library in California this week. So what does Christie have that the current GOP field is missing?

    Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Jason Riley; columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.

    So, James, is this clamor about the appeal of Christie or the lack of appeal of everybody else?

    JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: It's mainly Christie. Obviously, Rick Perry, the recent entrant into the race, has doesn't a great job in the debates. But you're seeing a clamor for Christies because people are looking at all these guys on the stage, the Republican debates, and saying they're not as good as the governor of New Jersey has done, for the last two years, a very powerful case for more limited government.

    GIGOT: Is the fact Christie has been in that battle, people have seen him and people have seen him taking on the challenges? Is that it?

    FREEMAN: They've seen him and they've also emulated him. He's really taught Republicans around the country how to talk about reforming government, limiting benefits programs in a direct way, in a way where, for example, he can talk about reforming teachers unions and their pension systems without coming off at anti-education and that's been very hard for Republicans to do until Christie.

    GIGOT: Jason, is this about, though, the rest of the field not quite measuring up?

    JASON RILEY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Republicans don't trust Mitt Romney and they don't think Perry is electable, and I think that's why you see a clamor for Chris Christie. I think one of the things that may be giving Christie pause, however, is Perry -- what happened to Perry. Here is a veteran politician, governor, one of the largest states, 11 years, he sort of flopped in the debate. Perry has been governor for two years. He might be thinking to himself, wow, look what happened to Perry. Am I ready for this?

    GIGOT: You have to go to school on a lot of issues, foreign policy and other things.

    Dan, you argued to us as a group that you don't think that Chris Christie is ready for this kind of vetting and candidacy, why?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Taking him at his word, he's the one who also says he isn't ready. I think the thing you have to understand about Chris Christie and one of the sources of his appeal is that Christie is a former prosecutor, a former federal prosecutor. What prosecutor do -- and we went through this, recall, with Rudy Giuliani. Prosecutors assemble their facts, they absorb them, and then they're terrific at making a presentation and an argument based on the facts. And I think what James is describing is why Christie had such an appeal. He knows New Jersey, pensions, union, finances. When we've talked to him, it hasn't just been a guy who makes interesting and funny arguments. He knows his stuff.

    But Medicare, Social Security, entitlement reform, foreign policy, tax policy, I don't think he would feel comfortable in having his back mastered the way he has New Jersey, and would run the risk in a debate of that coming through.

    GIGOT: James?

    FREEMAN: You look at his background and he was not a career politician. Before he was governor -- became governor of the state in 2009, his day job was putting away politicians, who were corrupt in New Jersey --

    (LAUGHTER)

    -- not studying on their policies, so, I think if you look--

    GIGOT: What about the vulnerability that Dan points out and Jason suggests, which is you've got to be a quick study on these national issues, otherwise they're going to say, you really said you're going to raise the retirement age on Medicare. You step on a land mine like that and everybody sudden says you're he not ready for prime time.

    FREEMAN: Well, I think he is showing lately he does have a broader view. One of the things that got people excited in that Reagan Library speech is he's talking about free trade and he's talking not about New Jersey, but about how America has to lead the world economically if we want to be a model to the world. I think you've seen him go in great depth on a lot of the issues and I don't see why he couldn't do that at the national level.

    GIGOT: I liked that speech myself, Jason. He talked about earned American exceptionalism and he took that speech out of just policy wonkism and brought it to a higher level about the better angels of America's political character.

    RILEY: Sure, you know what another theme of that speech was? His ability to lead New Jersey with divided government. He was highlighting his ability to compromise --

    (LAUGHTER)

    -- and that is part of leadership. That was another running theme of that debate. He's a Republican, working with the state legislature run by the other party, and he was able to get things done because he was willing to compromise.

    Is that a primary --

    (LAUGHTER)

    -- message that he was --

    (CROSSTALK)

    RILEY: -- that voters want to hear?

    GIGOT: But he compromised on his turf in a sense. He got, what 50, 70 percent of what he wanted.

    RILEY: But that's not what they want. It's not just whether Christie can defend positions. It's some of those positions that he holds that we don't know a lot about that could come up if he were to get into the race, his positions on energy policy, positions on gun control and even some of his positions on abortions. He's pro-life, but on the campaign trail when he was running for governor, he opposed a law that would have forced minors, for example, to get permission from parents before getting an abortion.

    (CROSSTALK)