Chris Christie Coasts To Victory, Next Stop 2016?

Chris Christie did as well as expected last night, but that's just the beginning.

Chris Christie Victory Speech 2013

Unlike the Virginia Governor’s race, the outcome of the race in New Jersey was never significantly in doubt. Chris Christie had been far ahead of any potential Democratic opponents for the past year, and maintained massive leads over his eventual opponent Barbara Buono, the only Democrat dared to step up to challenge him even in the fact of clear indications from her own party that their enthusiasm for her candidacy would be tepid at best. By the time the race closed, the poll average had Christie leading by an astounding 24.1 points and racking up numbers among women, minorities, and Independents that were ayptical for Republicans in general and New Jersey Republicans in particular. So, it was no surprise that the New Jersey race was called mere moments after the polls closed last night in New Jersey, the only question left at that point was how big Christie’s margin would be and what it might mean for 2016:

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey won re-election by a crushing margin on Tuesday, a victory that vaulted him to the front ranks of Republican presidential contenders and made him his party’s foremost proponent of pragmatism over ideology.

Mr. Christie declared that his decisive win should be a lesson for the nation’s broken political system and his feuding party: In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 700,000, Mr. Christie won a majority of the votes of women and Hispanics and made impressive inroads among younger voters and blacks — groups that Republicans nationally have struggled to attract.

The governor prevailed despite holding positions contrary to those of many New Jersey voters on several key issues, including same-sex marriage, abortion rights and the minimum wage, and despite an economic recovery that has trailed the rest of the country.

He attracted a broad coalition by campaigning as a straight-talking, even swaggering, leader who could reach across the aisle to solve problems.

“I know that if we can do this in Trenton, N.J., then maybe the folks in Washington, D.C., should tune in their TVs right now and see how it’s done,” Mr. Christie told a packed crowd at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, where his musical idol, Bruce Springsteen, holds holiday concerts, and where red and blue lighting gave the gathering a presidential campaign-like glow.

The governor all but lectured Republicans about how to appeal to groups beyond their base. “We don’t just show up in the places where we’re comfortable, we show up in the places we’re uncomfortable,” he said, adding, “You don’t just show up 6 months before an election.”

Around the country, Republicans alarmed by the surging grass roots support for the Tea Party wing were cheered by Mr. Christie’s success, saying they hope their party will learn not only from the size of Mr. Christie’s margin over Barbara Buono, a Democratic state senator, but also from the makeup of his support.

“We’ll be led back by our governors, and Chris Christie is now at the forefront of that resurgence,” said Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

“He’s proved that a conservative Republican can get votes from Hispanics and African-Americans, that a pro-life governor can get votes from women. This means that those voters are available to us, that we’re not shut out demographically or geographically — that it’s worth the effort.”

Mr. Christie’s strategy of bipartisanship and outreach deliberately echoed that of another Republican governor who seized the White House after eight years of Democratic control: George W. Bush.

“We work together and they don’t,” Mr. Christie said in an interview on Tuesday morning, contrasting Trenton and Washington. “It’s not like we like each other any more than they do. I got plenty of Democrats I don’t like here and that don’t like me. But we’ve made the decision that we’re going to work together.”

In the interview, Mr. Christie said intelligent voices were being drowned out in Washington, and described the effort led by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to cut off funding for President Obama’s health care program as “a monumental failure.”

The swell of national attention around Mr. Christie had grown in the run-up to Election Day, as network cameras filmed his every move — he had a CNN microphone clipped to his tie as he campaigned on Tuesday morning at the Peterpank Diner in Central New Jersey. His campaign bus had been swarmed by people seeking autographs on photos of the governor at the White House, on the cover of Time magazine, and even with his wife, Mary Pat, on their wedding day. Some clearly hoped to offer the souvenirs later for sale.

Mr. Christie’s national profile will only increase later this month as he assumes leadership of the Republican Governors Association, which gives him sway over which state candidates the party will support, allowing him to rack up favors with other Republicans and create relationships with local leaders in key presidential states.

In the interview, Mr. Christie said he would be appearing frequently in “places like Ohio and Michigan and Florida,” all states with incumbent Republican governors up for re-election next year. He has also told South Carolina Republicans that he wants to help Senator Lindsey Graham, who is facing a conservative primary challenge next year. And in New Hampshire, which has the country’s first presidential primary, the national committeeman, Stephen Duprey, said he was inviting Mr. Christie to the state to discuss policy and to raise money for the party.

Taking a look at the exit polling (PDF), one finds that Christie did indeed score very well across the board:

  • Christie won female voters by 15 points over a female Democrat;
  • He won all age groups except 18-29 year olds, which he only lost by two percentage points;
  • He won 21% of the African-American vote, and won the Latino vote by six percentage points;
  • He won 61% of self-described moderates and nearly 1/3 of self-described liberals, as well as 66% of Independents and nearly 1/3 of Democrats;
  • He won all income categories except those earning less than $30,000/year, which he only lost by two points;
  • The poll showed him with a 64% Favorability rating;
  • For the first time, a majority of New Jerseyans say that he should run for President in 2016 and, in a hypothetical matchup between him; and,
  • In a hypothetical matchup between him and Hillary Clinton, Clinton only has a 4% lead

These are, quite obviously, highly favorable numbers for a Republican, especially in a solidly blue state like New Jersey where the President coasted to a 17 point re-election victory just one year ago. Republicans looking for a potential candidate in 2016 who could break the party’s streak of not winning a Presidential election twice in a row, and only winning the Popular Vote in one of the past six Presidential elections, are obviously going to look at numbers like this and reach the rather obvious conclusions. Of course, people were reaching that conclusion about Chris Christie long before last night’s election results. There was even an effort to try to persuade him to jump into the 2012 Presidential race in the Fall of 2011 when it looked like the Romney campaign was faltering in the wake of repeat challenges from Tea Party backed candidates like Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain. Christie wisely chose to demur at that time, but now that he’s been re-elected by such an overwhelming margin, at the same time that a much more conservative candidate in Virginia narrowly lost, the spotlight is likely to be on him for some time to come.

In analyzing what happened in New Jersey, though, it’s important to put things in the proper context. For example, as Sean Trende notes, while Christie has developed the reputation of being a pragmatist when it comes to governing, Christie is also fairly conservative in his ideology:

I’ve mentioned this before, but Chris Christie is easily the most conservative politician elected to statewide office in New Jersey in the past 60 years, and possibly longer (I don’t know much about the politics of Gov. Alfred Driscoll). In fact, New York Sen. Al D’Amato and Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri are the only two successful GOP politicians from states north or east of Pennsylvania that I can think of who have approached his level of conservatism in recent memory (New Hampshire, always the political black sheep of the Northeast, gets asterisked here).

The normal Republican blueprint in the Northeast is to run as a center-right candidate on fiscal matters and center-left — if not left — on social issues (remember, Christine Todd Whitman opposed a ban on partial-birth abortions). On fiscal matters, Christie has been pretty hawkish, taking on the state’s teachers’ unions, overseeing cuts in spending and lowering taxes. Even on social issues, he has been fairly conservative, especially by Northeastern standards — he’s pro-life, against gay marriage (though he does support civil unions), and he even cut state funding for Planned Parenthood. This is an unusually conservative overall profile for a successful Republican politician in the region, much less for one of the most successful Republican politicians there in a generation.

That’s not to say that Christie is a Ken Cuccinelli, of course.

His opposition to abortion doesn’t appear to extend to things like transvaginal probes, Personhood Amendments, or efforts to use state regulation to essentially drive abortion clinics out of business. Additionally, while he has made clear that he personally opposes same-sex marriage and did veto a bill that would’ve legalized it in the Garden State earlier in his First Term, he also said that he would have supported a statewide referendum on the issue (a referendum that, according to the exit poll taken yesterday, would have passed easily by the way). He also made the decision to drop the state’s appeal of a trial court decision mandating that the state recognize same-sex marriage, thus making New Jersey the 14th state to recognize marriage equality just a few weeks ago. In other words, he has not worn his personal social conservatism on his sleeve. (In reality, of course, Democratic control of the state legislature means and the nature of politics in New Jersey made it essentially impossible for him to push any such agenda while in office.)

Nonetheless, Trende is correct to call Christie the most conservative Governor New Jersey has ever elected, and re-elected, albeit one that has not used the not inconsiderable powers of that office to push such an agenda except in a relatively modest respect. This is something that national Republicans who tend to dismiss Christie as a “RINO” either seem to willfully ignore or be totally unaware of. Potentially, it means that he will be able to speak to social conservatives in seemingly hostile states like Iowa and South Carolina as one of them if he decides to run in 2016. He may not win either of those states, but he also has the potential to do better there than many people expect in those states. On the other side of the coin, though, National Journal’s Kevin Brennan notes that Christie’s campaign this year could be used against him by conservatives in 2016. To a large degree, Christie tacked to the middle this year and emphasized leadership rather than pushing what anyone would call a conservative agenda. That was exactly what was needed to win, of course, but it’s likely to be something that more conservative voters are going to question in a primary where a lot of candidates are going to be falling all over themselves to tack to the right.

But perhaps that appeal to leadership is exactly the kind of race that Christie needs to run. I took note just last week of his skills as a retail politician, using the example of an impromtu speech in Sea Bright, NJ, one of the towns devastated by Sandy, as an example of a speech that you don’t often hear from American politicians of any kind. It’s but one example of the kind of stump speeches that Christie has given in the state since the storm hit, and even before it on other issues. Yes, the style is bombastic at times and some people may not like it, but it works for Virginia and, with the right modifications, there’s no reason that it couldn’t work nationwide.

Indeed, one need only look at last night’s victory speech, which was obviously much less impromtu than the Sea Bright remarks, for what I’m talking about:

That was, in many ways, as much a message to potential voters and supporters across the nation as it was victory speech for New Jersey voters. Now that Christie is preparing to step in as head of the Republican Governor’s Association, you can bet we’ll be hearing more stuff like that as he travels across the nation. How it’s received will likely go a long way toward deciding whether he runs in 2016. At the moment, though, I think we’ve just seen the beginning of the next step in Chris Christie’s political career.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2013, Campaign 2016, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    Well, considering all the various skeletons in his closet (not to mention the 3 or 4 inside his body) that convinced Romney not to tap him for Veep, I think he’ll take a lot of damage from bloodthirstier potentials – especially Ted Cruz. There’s a guy who won’t hesitate a cold second to stick a knife in a fellow Republican – especially one he already considers a RINO. And if Paul Ryan or Rand Paul decide the time is right to throw their hats in, the blood will flow…

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Christie ran against an underfunded lightweight…and many of his views are anathema to the increasing insane Republican base.
    All that aside…one close-up shot of him sweating like a stuck pig under the TV lights and he’s done.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: Yeah. One hates to say it, but the electorate are a box of rocks and his weight will be a problem. They’ve invented the TV machine since W. H. Taft.

  4. wr says:

    I’m sure he will be a worthy successor to President Giuliani.

  5. Jr says:

    Christie has too much baggage(to much that even Romney balked at making him his VP).. The one thing in his favor is the 2016 GOP field is crap…….but in the long run it is irrelevant since Hilary will be President.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    even Romney balked at making him his VP

    Yeah…being second choice to Paul Ryan is no great recommendation.
    http://6.mshcdn.com/wp-content/gallery/paul-ryan-p90x-meme/tumblr_mbqjcqkh5z1qza5a8o1_500.gif

  7. Scott F. says:

    Taking a look at the exit polling, one finds that Christie did indeed score very well across the board

    Um… a post on the broad appeal of Chris Christie and only a passing mention of superstorm Sandy? Please. All this talk of his political positions and personal style is immaterial. He stepped up in a time of crisis and delivered the support the state’s citizens needed. He deserves credit and adulation for that. That mattered a great deal yesterday and all other considerations paled in comparison.

    I do think it’s telling though, that in the impromptu speech in Sea Bright, he celebrates that neighbor helped neighbor and volunteers from around the country came to NJ to provide aid, but he makes nary a mention of the billions in Individual Assistance, low-interest disaster loans, National Flood Insurance Program payments or funding for repair and replacement of infrastructure that FEMA delivered when Christie lobbied so aggressively for it. Wonder why that was.

  8. Todd says:

    Chris Christie will not be the Republican nominee.

    This time they will put up a “real” Conservative.

    And the pre-election polls will be even more “skewed” than they were in 2012.

    Then when Hillary wins in a landslide we will be told that, no, the Republican candidate still wasn’t Conservative enough.

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    Not to long ago I didn’t think that Christie could win the Republican nomination but Larison makes a good point.He will be the only so called moderate while there will be a number of wingnuts vying for the nomination. But he has this disclaimer:

    Republicans obviously did nominate someone from the Northeast last year, so it’s conceivable that it could happen again, but there’s also considerable regret on the right about “allowing” Romney to become the nominee. Primary voters may take out their buyer’s remorse for McCain and Romney on Christie. Republicans haven’t nominated a Northeastern candidate and won a general election since the GOP ceased to be the dominant party in the region. Parties don’t normally choose nominees that come from regions where they are weakest, and the reason for that seems simple enough: politicians that are successful there are not a very good fit with the rest of the national party.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    At the moment, though, I think we’ve just seen the beginning of the next step in end of Chris Christie’s political career.

    FTFY Doug. Really, who outside of Jersey is going to vote for him? D!ckhead might play well there, but not so much anyplace else (well, maybe in Texas) Also remember how scared he was of running with Cory Booker on the same ballot?

  11. C. Clavin says:

    I just saw over at New York Magazine that Christie was sulking because Obama didn’t call to congratulate him on his win.
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/11/christie-obama-phone-call-congrats-election.html
    A while back he was crying because Springsteen doesn’t like him.
    This guy is a big friggin’ baby…especially when you consider his bullying of the little people…like teachers.
    Serious character issues with this one, there are.

  12. CB says:

    @Todd:

    I can’t wait to see them explain how Rick Santorum was no true conservative.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Todd: Then when Hillary wins in a landslide we will be told that, no, the Republican candidate still wasn’t Conservative enough. SEE??!! VOTER FRAUD!!!

  14. stonetools says:

    @wr:

    Indeed. I’ve a new found respect for the fundamentals and the fundamentals are this: the road to the Republican presidential nomination runs through Iowa ( where the caucus is heavily evangelical)and South Carolina (where the primary electorate is heavily evangelical). I don’t see Christie winning in either place. Then its on to Florida and the Deep South. I don’t see Christie putting together back to back victories anywhere in the early stretch of primaries-which means no momentum to help in fund raising. I think he’ll get blitzed in the Southern primaries either by Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. In short, I think the fundamentals of the Republican primary process are against him, no matter how appealing a candidate he is to the “independents” .
    Another way to put it is that he is the “independents” idea of what the ideal Republican candidate is. He is not really the Republican primary voter’s idea of the ideal candidate -especially a Southern primary voter. And he will be looking mostly at those voters through the first two months of primaries.

  15. Todd says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    SEE??!! VOTER FRAUD!!!

    Well that too.

    It’ll be interesting for me, once I’m out of the military and start my new job. I’ll still make just about the same total income, but more of it will be taxable, so I’ll almost certainly no longer be a part of the 47%.

    Since according to my Conservative friends, that’s the only plausible reason I might have voted for President Obama, I wonder if I’ll suddenly “wake up” and find that I’ve become a Republican? 😀

  16. grumpy realist says:

    Hmmm. Mixed feelings. On one hand, I think that Christie is the one possible candidate to give Hillary a run for her money. On the other hand, I think the Base on the right will do anything to keep from Christie becoming the candidate.

    Just go over to NRO and read the commentary on Christie’s win vs. Cuccinelli’s loss. The kindest epithet they’re using is calling Christie a RINO.

    Until the Tea Party spectacularly blows itself up or splits off to form a 3rd party, I don’t see Christie getting the nomination. He’s too much like Mitt Romney (Northeastern Republican.)

  17. michael reynolds says:

    I’m not so sure his weight or his brusqueness will hurt him. I have no data there, just an instinct that the country may no longer care quite as much about svelteness and smoothness.

    I’m torn as to whether the Democrats should start roughing him up early, or too-openly embrace him in an effort to drive Tea Party nuts even crazier.

    But I think it would be a big mistake to take the guy too lightly. He’s not Romney. Romney was too obviously a lizard who cared about nothing but money and power. And Romney was willing to give BJ’s to curry favor with the crazies. Christie will hit back. Very different guys, with very different personae.

  18. ak says:

    It’s but one example of the kind of stump speeches that Christie has given in the state since the storm hit, and even before it on other issues. Yes, the style is bombastic at times and some people may not like it, but it works for Virginia and, with the right modifications, there’s no reason that it couldn’t work nationwide.

    Virgina? don’t you mean Nj?

  19. ebase22 says:

    Todd,

    Chris Christie will not be the Republican nominee.
    This time they will put up a “real” Conservative.

    This keeps getting said every cycle, but the GOP has this tendency to electe relatatively moderate people for pres. Romney and McCain were not the most conservative people running, or anything even close to it. Even Bush in 2000 was not either. Look further back to 1996 or 1988, Dole and Bush Sr. were very establishment party types.

    Things can always change, but Christie has at least as much chance of getting nominated at this point as does any other common thrown out name.

  20. ak says:

    @C. Clavin: This is why he got the gastric bypass… as soon as I heard he had done that I know he was shooting for the white house

  21. ak says:

    @michael reynolds:

    people like the tall, handsome guy. google it, its uncanny how often the taller man wins

  22. Grewgills says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Parties don’t normally choose nominees that come from regions where they are weakest

    Two of the last three democratic presidents came from the South, where the democratic party is weakest.

  23. Moosebreath says:

    @ak:

    He had the gastric bypass nearly a year ago. It doesn’t seem to have led to any weight loss.

    @michael reynolds:

    “I’m not so sure his weight or his brusqueness will hurt him. I have no data there, just an instinct that the country may no longer care quite as much about svelteness and smoothness.”

    I think the problem is not that Christie is brusque. It’s that he is often a d!ck, not just to opponents in the political ring, but to average joes who really cannot fight back.

  24. ak says:

    help me out here guys…. why is it all about Christie vs Hillary…. isn’t it more likely Christie vs joe biden?

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Grewgills:

    Two of the last three democratic presidents came from the South, where the democratic party is weakest.

    When Ron said that my first thought was of Clinton also, but I would not bring Carter into the discussion. 1976 was a far different place than ’92 much less 2008. The country has changed a lot these last 40 years or so.

  26. Todd says:

    @ak:

    help me out here guys…. why is it all about Christie vs Hillary…. isn’t it more likely Christie vs joe biden?

    ummm, no.

    If by some chance Hillary Clinton doesn’t run, I’d actually be less shocked to see the Democrats nominate someone as implausible as say Corey Booker, than to let good old crazy uncle Joe take the wheel.

  27. michael reynolds says:

    @ak:

    No one was taller or more handsome than Mitt Romney, last seen riding his car elevator up and down while muttering, “But my jaw line is perfect!”

  28. ak says:

    @Todd: hahahah crazy uncle joe. haha

    I have laughed at how it could be the two jersey boys fighting for the white house. Not probable, but still possible.

  29. Todd says:

    @ebase22:

    This keeps getting said every cycle, but the GOP has this tendency to electe relatatively moderate people for pres.

    Ok, I’ll hedge my bet a little. If Chris Christie is the Republican nominee, the primaries will have damaged him just as much as they did McCain and Romney in the previous two election cycles.

    It’s a classic double-edged sword.

    His primary “selling point” is that he can be attractive to normally Democratic moderate voters. But to get through the GOP primary, he’s going to have to say (a lot) of things that will most likely be Very unattractive to normally Democratic moderate voters.

  30. ak says:

    @Todd: yep, sounds about right

  31. rudderpedals says:

    To get there he’s going to have to make it through Santorum and Jeb!

  32. ak says:

    isn’t it amusing though that the party and groups of people who allegedly vote in large all or nothing blocs still fail to get their guy elected?
    One would think it would be harder to unite the more fragmented and diverse (on views and values) liberals/democrats.

    I’d love to see some statistics about who is more likely to stay home (essentially let they guy they like less win just because the person who leans more their way…still isn’t enticing enough to get them to vote FOR him/her)

  33. mattbernius says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But I think it would be a big mistake to take the guy too lightly. He’s not Romney.

    This. Nor is he Guiliani. It’s a HUGE mistake to assume that either is a safe comparison.

    Like @Ron Beasley, I’ve spilled a number of pixels saying Christie can’t win the nomination. I’m starting to change my tune. Here’s why:

    1. Get beyond the easy fat jokes – he’s clearly already slimming down and prepping for the physical aspects of the race.

    2. For as much as progressives, liberals, and the Conservative Media crowd salivate over the Republicans nominating “teh realz conzervatiz”, the fact is historically that just doesn’t happen. Typically its the good soldier who laid down in the previous primary. An argument can be made that Christie was that soldier last time because he chose not to run.

    3. To @MR’s point, its clear that Christie is *not* Romney. Its unlikely he’s going to suddenly embrace his severely conservative side (in otherwords sacrifice the general to win the primaries).

    4. A number of signs are pointing to a real battle between the Tea Party and the Traditional (Rockerfeller) side of the Republican party (i.e. Business/Chamber of Commerce). These people wanted to draft Christie in 2011/12. I have a hard time seeing how he won’t have their backing (and with it a war chest of Epic proportions… remind me the last time that the best funded candidate didn’t win the primary).

    5. Governor versus Senator…

    6. While I’m sure Christie has skeletons, pretending that Romney didn’t choose him because of his skeletons is crazy. Romney didn’t choose him as a running mate because (a) you don’t want a VP candidate who is going to outshine you (the Palin rule) and (b) Chistie wasn’t going to do anything for Romney in terms of outreach. Romney needed someone with Tea Party cred (or at least he though he did… that was never Christie).

    BTW, the entire “he’ll get destroyed in the Primaries” is also a mistaken perspective. Remember 2008 and the same fears about the possibility of mutually assured destruction of both Obama and Clinton? McCain, by comparison, was relatively unscathed by the entire primary process.

    It’s still going to be an uphill battle. But it’s not as far fetched as it seemed even a year ago.

  34. mattbernius says:

    @Todd:

    If Chris Christie is the Republican nominee, the primaries will have damaged him just as much as they did McCain and Romney in the previous two election cycles.

    Again, counter factual here, what about Obama in the 2008 primary. Things did get pretty ugly between him and Clinton (lest we forget the phone call ad was a *Clinton* not McCain ad, and that the Rev. Wright stuff began during the primaries).

    Yet he still managed to come out on top.

    And frankly, I’m having a hard time remembering how McCain was significantly damaged by the primaries — definitely not in the same way that Romney was.

  35. stonetools says:

    @Grewgills:

    Two of the last three democratic presidents came from the South, where the democratic party is weakest.

    I think things have moved on quite a bit from 1992 or even 2000. For one thing, the Big Sort of Southern conservatives into the Republican Party was still under way and didn’t finish until 2008.
    The 2012 electoral map looks substantially different from the 1992 or even the 2000 map.
    All the potential Democratic candidates for 2016 I’ve heard discussed come from the Northeast or Midwest (with the possible exception of Mark Warner, from the now purple, not-really-so-Southern state of Virginia).

  36. mattbernius says:

    BTW, for those who are *instictively* there’s no chance for Christie, I’d suggest reading the comments on the Larison thread. Admittedly, many echo my analysis, but beyond that I think they demonstrate why Christie is a far more serious candidate than a *lot* of people realize.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/can-christie-be-stopped/#post-comments

    (BTW. for those who think this line of analysis is crazy, there are some good counter arguments there as well)

  37. Todd says:

    @mattbernius:

    I’m having a hard time remembering how McCain was significantly damaged by the primaries

    Ok, perhaps not the primaries, but the worst damage McCain did to himself (Palin) was a direct result of a (misguided) desire to try to appeal to Conservatives (who were never going to trust him, no matter what he said or did).

    The Republicans keep nominating “moderates”, and then forcing them to continually prove how Conservative they really are … thus defeating the whole purpose.

  38. stonetools says:

    @mattbernius:

    . Typically its the good soldier who laid down in the previous primary. An argument can be made that Christie was that soldier last time because he chose not to run.

    Actually, the Republicans are known as the “it’s his turn” party, for nominating the guy who ran last time and lost. And that guy is… Rick Santorum, whose strong suit was social conservatism. Now there is a strong tendency among the OTB set to discount the social conservative side of the Republican Party, but its actually just as much a pillar of the Republican Party as the no taxes bunch. They’ve got the numbers and the enthusiasm. For all the talk of Tea Party economic libertarianism, the Tea Party really represents the socially conservative side of the Republican Party and right now they are in the driver’s seat.
    I think what would help Christie is a wave election throwing out the Tea Party in 2014. AS much as I would love to see that, I have to admit it’s unlikely right now.

  39. mattbernius says:

    BTW, on why Christie = Guiliani is wrong:

    1. Guiliani was a two trick pony – NYC’s drop in crime and 9/11. As soon as you got beyond that, there was nothing conservative about him. Christie has largely maintained a middle-of-the-road social and fiscal conservatism. He actually has a record on some red meat issues.

    2. Guiliani never seriously ran for President (or had the worst advisers in the world) – see “the Florida Strategy.” Christie was serious enough *not* to get in the race in 2012/3. That suggests that he’s taking this race seriously as well.

    3. Guiliani never won a state-wide office. The dynamics of a city mayoral race are far different (see a potential reason for #2). The dynamics of a State Wide race are arguably far closer to that of national election.

    Again, I’m not saying that Christie has this locked up. But trying to suggest Christie will make the same mistakes as past candidates is bad analysis.

    And, should the far right continue to overreach, the stage will be set for the necessary sea change that could make Christie’s nomination even more likely.

  40. stonetools says:

    @mattbernius:

    Does Larison really represent the average Republican voter? Frankly, I think you should look to the Free Republic, NRO, and Hot Air to see how the average Republican voter thinks -wetsuit optional :-).

  41. mattbernius says:

    @stonetools:

    Actually, the Republicans are known as the “it’s his turn” party, for nominating the guy who ran last time and lost. And that guy is… Rick Santorum, whose strong suit was social conservatism.

    I appreciate that argument. I just find it, in this case, highly unlikely. Santorum lost by a pretty wide margin (last I checked far more broadly than either Romney, McCain, or GHWB).

    Also, there are counterfactual evidence (see George W. Bush who didn’t previously run).

    That’s why I suggested that *arguably* Christie was also the “good soldier.” We know through various reporting that there were a LOT of financial backers looking to draft Christie, and that he seriously considered a run. If he had run, he would have most likely damaged Romney far more than anyone else on that stage.

    It’s not the same, but it’s in the same ballpark.

    Now there is a strong tendency among the OTB set to discount the social conservative side of the Republican Party, but its actually just as much a pillar of the Republican Party as the no taxes bunch. They’ve got the numbers and the enthusiasm.

    While I agree in general with this, it’s also worth noting that they have never been able to successfully field a candidate on the national level.

    And, again, Christie has managed to maintain a relatively *high* level of social conservatism (anti-gay marriage (including a veto): check. anti-abortion: check. Religious: check – catholic). He’s not as hellfire and brimstone as Santorum (also a catholic, so no evangelical points here), but I suspect he’s enough of a social conservative that the social cons will hold their nose and vote for him (as they have done countless times in the past).

  42. mattbernius says:

    @stonetools:

    Does Larison really represent the average Republican voter? Frankly, I think you should look to the Free Republic, NRO, and Hot Air to see how the average Republican voter thinks -wetsuit optional :-).

    If Free Republic, NRO, and Hot Air accurately determined the outcome of Republican Primaries can you explain how Romney and McCain (or arguably G.W.B., G.H.W.B., and Dole) ever won the party nominations?

    Seriously, take a step back and consider the *actual* history of the Republican Presidential primaries versus our own perceptions about an albeit VOCAL portion of the Republican base.

    Presidential nominations are very different than House or Senate nods.

  43. mattbernius says:

    @Todd:

    the worst damage McCain did to himself (Palin) was a direct result of a (misguided) desire to try to appeal to Conservatives (who were never going to trust him, no matter what he said or did).

    No, actually I’d put his bizarre reaction to the Financial Crisis ahead of Palin. But Palin did him no favors.

    The Republicans keep nominating “moderates”, and then forcing them to continually prove how Conservative they really are … thus defeating the whole purpose.

    Again, I think this is a misreading of 2012. Romney would have won the nomination without tacking hard right. Romney chose to tack right because he thought it would guarantee him the nomination. That was his personality and his flaw (or rather it was a flawed strategy in this case… arguably it worked for him in the past).

    The fact is that if you take a step back, there was *NEVER* a serious threat to Romney. All he continually faced was a flame-out flavor of the month. Hence it was all self-inflicted damage.

    Given that lesson, and the fundamental differences in the two men’s personalities, I think Christie would chose to run on his record and his established beliefs without going further to the right (again, Christie is *not* as liberal as some seem to think, he’s not a Guliani). He’s also learned how to convey and constrain those ideas.

    And more importantly, I think it’s pretty obvious he (and his advisors) believe that the party is ready for a “mainstream” candidate and will reward staying mainstream.

  44. john personna says:

    Way too early to guess, but amusing consensus on what is the crux.

    It is about the crazy party pulling it together, or not.

  45. Todd says:

    @mattbernius:

    I totally agree that Christie is much better politician than either McCain or Romney, and would almost certainly be a much better candidate.

    But, when it comes to this:

    The fact is that if you take a step back, there was *NEVER* a serious threat to Romney. All he continually faced was a flame-out flavor of the month. Hence it was all self-inflicted damage.

    I don’t think we’ll see the same thing in 2016. Rand Paul is also a much better politician than any of those who (also)ran in 2012.

  46. C. Clavin says:

    Matts correct… McCain blew it on the economy. And not knowing how many houses his wife owns. Snark.

  47. C. Clavin says:

    @ak:
    Yeah he got the gastric by- pass…but it does not seem to be working.

  48. grumpy realist says:

    @mattbernius: (Well, the other problem with Giuliani was that he really was nothing but “9-1-1 and a verb.”)

    Actually, the most interesting possibility (and the one that makes me bite my nails the most) is that something in 2014 causes the Tea Party to stomp off in a huff and start a third party. The rest of the Republican party says “bye-bye, don’t let the door hit you on the ass when you leave”, heaves a sigh, stuffs the remaining screaming so-cons like Maggie Gallagher in a closet, and tries to re-create the Business Republican model, with Christie at its head.

    Hillary Clinton (she of the “triangulation” way) vs. Christie vs. the Tea Party? Especially since Clinton hasn’t had any actual governing-of-a-state experience? I wouldn’t take bets on the outcome. (The Tea Party will go down to defeat and spend the rest of its existence complaining about how It Was Robbed and kicking out the insufficiently pure, getting smaller and smaller.)

  49. mattbernius says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Matts correct… McCain blew it on the economy. And not knowing how many houses his wife owns. Snark.

    Well played snark sir!

    BTW, I don’t think McCain blew it on the economy. Simply that his handling of the crisis (suspending campaign and then going nuts) was the biggest mistake. But it was the totality of his mistakes, not to mention GWB, that cost him the election.

  50. stonetools says:

    @mattbernius:

    Seriously, take a step back and consider the *actual* history of the Republican Presidential primaries versus our own perceptions about an albeit VOCAL portion of the Republican base.

    Presidential nominations are very different than House or Senate nods.

    Maybe so. But I think there has been a decided shift in favor of the radical right since January 2009. Christie can’t just ignore the radical right in the presidential primary. He is going to have to lean a long way right to keep the enthusiasm high among the “values voters”.

  51. stonetools says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I think he’s lost a quite a bit of weight. He is striding now and not waddling. Still, he’s got a long way to go-another 50 pounds, I’d say.
    I want to be clear: it shouldn’t matter, but I expect it will .

  52. Rafer Janders says:

    @Grewgills:

    Two of the last three democratic presidents came from the South, where the democratic party is weakest.

    True now, but not true when Carter and Clinton were running. Check out this breakdown of the 1992 electoral map — Clinton won West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas and Louisiana. And in 1976 Carter won the entire South except for Virginia.

    It was a different time….

  53. wr says:

    “Christie for President — Sure, he’s a sleazy crook who shovels government money to his connected pals, but he’s not afraid to be rude to people with less power than him!”

    Sounds like a real Republican to me.

  54. An Interested Party says:

    Um… a post on the broad appeal of Chris Christie and only a passing mention of superstorm Sandy?

    Exactly right…circumstances can certainly help a politician a lot…just like 9/11 helped the middling Bush win a second term…

  55. superdestroyer says:

    Gov. Christie had zero coat tails in the elections. The Democrats held on to every New Jersey State Senate seat they had http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/11/new_feature_winners_and_losers.html

    Despite a massive win at the top of the ticket, Republicans were only able to pick up one or possibly two seats in the Assembly, which will do nothing to change the dynamic in the Legislature. The goose egg in the Senate despite Gov. Chris Christie’s 20 plus point win has to have Republicans wondering where they’ll be once the big man is gone.

    If Chrsitie is the future for Republicans, then it just means that a few outsize personalities can use the irrelevant Republican Party to promote themselves (think Mayor Bloomberg in NYC.

    However, the long term picture for politics in the U.S. remains unchanged because as the demographics of the U.S. change the Democrats will hold so many offices that the Rebublicans have zero chance of winning that almost no one interested in a career in politics will be a Republican.

  56. C. Clavin says:

    @superdestroyer:
    Well if Republicans weren’t bigots…like you for instance…demographics wouldn’t be such a problem for them. Just to be clear…fool…the problem is not demographics…the problem is Republicans.

  57. Mikey says:

    @superdestroyer: Yeah, well, Reagan won a 49-state landslide in 1984 while Republicans lost two seats in the Senate and the Democrats retained a 70-seat majority in the House. It happens rather often in American politics that a chief executive, both state and federal, is elected from one party while the legislature is elected with a majority of the other.

  58. al-Ameda says:

    Democrats should not take Christie lightly at all. It’s early and we don’t know how well Christie would do out on the hustings, but …..

    My current feeling is that if the opponent is anyone but Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie would be the favored candidate. If it’s Joe Biden – I think Christie would win that one easily. Finally, among adults who are interested in responsible governance, Christie will be remembered for working WITH President Obama to get the people of New Jersey that federal resources needed during the Hurricane Sandy disaster. In that difficult time he governed effectively and, counter to the wishes of at least half his party, he worked cooperatively with Obama to manage the crisis.

  59. Mikey says:

    @al-Ameda: A good number of Republicans will never forgive Christie for that. They maintain the fiction that Christie’s cooperation with Obama helped defeat Romney.

  60. superdestroyer says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Which states that were carried by Gore, Kerry, and Obama (twice) would vote for Christie. Christie would still have to spend money in North Carolina and Indiana and would probably not even win his own state.

    People need to explain the states that Christie would win that were lost by McCain and Romney.

  61. mattbernius says:

    @superdestroyer:

    People need to explain the states that Christie would win that were lost by McCain and Romney.

    Chances are that Christie would be far more competitive in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida than McCain or Romney were – especially depending on the Democratic opponent.

    These states have swung back and forth between Republican and Democrat in different recent presidential elections. None of them are *reliably* Democratic.

  62. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Which states that were carried by Gore, Kerry, and Obama (twice) would vote for Christie. Christie would still have to spend money in North Carolina and Indiana and would probably not even win his own state.
    People need to explain the states that Christie would win that were lost by McCain and Romney.

    Two points: (1) Christie gets “centrist” points for not being as transparently a plutocrat as Mitt Romney presented himself to be, and (2) Great Lakes states like Ohio and Michigan would be in play for Christie, as would Indiana and Pennsylvania.

    To be fair, it is also entirely possible that the shut-down-default wing of the GOP will say, “look, we let you nominate socialists like Romney and McCain, now it’s our turn.” And maybe they prevail and nominate Paul Ryan, and then try to make it palatable to otherwise sensible people by offering the VP slot to Christie? It’s early.

  63. Rex Vasily says:

    Look, David Kelley declined to prosecute Christie’s brother, Todd, after Todd defrauded investors of $19 million, netting $1.4 million for himself. A short time later, in a quid pro quo, Chris Christie gave David Kelley’s company a no-bid monitoring contract worth millions of dollars.

    Christie is one slip-up away from jail, not one-step away from the Whitehouse.