WASHINGTON —The campaign to re-elect New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie will spend a million dollars on advertising this fall even though Christie is 20 points ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono, a sacrificial lamb if ever there was one. She deserves credit for stepping up and making the progressive case against Christie, but she has gotten little media coverage and most political observers wrote her off months ago.
Christie is the Howard Dean of this cycle, hailed by many as the savior of the GOP because he is about to win big in a blue state and could potentially revive the moderate wing of the GOP. Just as Dean breathed life into what he called “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” taking on the corporatists and running on an anti-war platform, Christie energizes Republicans who think he has the winning formula to win the White House in 2016.
The pundits love Christie, and why wouldn’t they – he’s outspoken, always good for a quote, and on the fast track maybe to become our next president. He’s treated like the presumptive frontrunner, just as Dean was in 2003 in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. The problem was all the prognosticators didn’t bother to consult the voters, who apparently had second thoughts about Dean, shifting support late in the process to John Kerry, a decorated war veteran who had voted for the Iraq War.
Christie could be the Republican Howard Dean, a candidate who is defiantly different and seen by many as the GOP’s salvation, only to be repudiated by rank and file voters. The gap between Christie and the GOP’s Tea Party base couldn’t be greater, and these conservative voters are not going to be impressed with Christie’s win in New Jersey, even if he defeats his opponent by double digits. Although he may only be liberal in the minds of far-right conservatives, those are the folks who dominate the GOP presidential primaries.
The road to the White House begins in Iowa, a state where conservative Christians dominate the Republican caucuses. Rick Santorum won Iowa in 2012; he was the candidate who for a time talked about states’ rights to potentially ban contraception. Christie could do well in the next state, New Hampshire, the “live free or die” state, but then it’s on to South Carolina where Republican candidates have their smack down.
South Carolina is not the most natural habitat for a fast-talking Jersey boy, and it could prove Christie’s undoing. It’s easy to imagine television ads that show Christie walking on the boardwalk with President Obama after Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey shore. They bonded over the storm, worrying about their country and the impact on the people most affected.
When the Republican-controlled House failed to pass aid for the victims of Sandy in a timely fashion, Christie lost his cool, saying the debate was “disappointing and disgusting to watch,” and “why the American people hate Congress.” Months later, still seething at the anti-government sentiment raging in his party, Christie said that the “strain of libertarianism” capturing headlines “is a very dangerous thought.”
Christie didn’t name names but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., when asked about the comment said that those voicing concern about libertarianism are “the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending, and their ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme – give me all my Sandy money now .... Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense.”
Christie pointed out New Jersey is a donor state, sending more money to the federal government than it gets back (61 cents on the dollar) while Kentucky gets back $1.51 for every dollar it sends to Washington — so who’s bankrupting whom? It was the kind of lively exchange we’ll have to see a lot more of if Christie is going to have any chance to change enough minds to win the Republican nomination.
U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.