Christie, who already had one of the most prominent public profiles in the country, has stepped squarely into the spotlight in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the Congressional debate over passing a relief package for residents of the affected states.
“One thing I hope everyone in America now clearly understands — New Jersey, both Republicans and Democrats, will never stand silent when our citizens are being short changed,” the outspoken governor said in his State of the State address in Trenton yesterday.
This week Christie is also enjoying the Time Magazine cover treatment under the enormous headline, “The Boss” and “the master of disaster.”
But what many Americans have seen in Christie is what they don’t see in Obama: someone who is decisive and unfiltered and doesn’t think the world is an impossibly complex place. He may be wrong, he may be right, but he’s never in doubt. It was Sandy that evoked the best part of Christie’s raw persona. If he could be an overbearing bully in political arguments, he was an open hydrant of empathy in the wake of disaster. In the days after the storm, Christie toured nonstop among downed power lines and wrecked boardwalks, doling out countless bear hugs to shattered survivors. It helped a lot that his connection to the devastated areas was authentic. “The pier with the rides where I took my kids this August before the Republican Convention, where I got into that famous yelling match with the guy who was buying an ice cream cone?” Christie reminded reporters. “Those rides are in the Atlantic Ocean.”…
Christie zeroed in on his party’s weakest spot, casting House Republicans as Dickensian villains so consumed by their grudge match with Obama that they were stalling aid to homeless storm victims. Though privately protesting that Christie didn’t understand flaws in the bill, which included several long-term nonemergency projects, Boehner and the House Republicans quickly retreated, passing a relief bill (albeit a scaled-down one) within days of the governor’s broadside.
Washington Republicans saw shameless grandstanding at the expense of a deeply unpopular Congress—an effort to please Northeastern Democrats and the national media elite. “He seems to be doing what the press wants him to do,” says a Republican operative with ties to congressional GOP leaders. “The popular thing is to bash Republicans.”…
After eight years out of the White House, Republicans will be desperate to find a winner and may appreciate that bashing Washington is almost always smart politics—and bashing his own party when it is deeply unpopular might be the shrewdest politics of all. George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” slogan in 2000 was in part a way of distancing himself from the Newt Gingrich–Tom DeLay Congress. If Christie is easily re-elected in a state that hasn’t gone red since 1988, Republicans will have to wonder if he might be the man to restore their unloved brand.
Other notes from this poll:
Chris Christie is now more popular with Democrats nationally than he is with Republicans. His overall favorability is a very strong 51/23, but his +29 standing with Democrats (52/23) is higher than his +21 with GOP voters (48/27). He’s most popular with independents at +34 (52/18). Compared to a month ago he’s up a net 12 points with Democrats and down a net 11 points with Republicans. We’ll have a more full look ahead to the 2016 Presidential race tomorrow.
[T]he New Jersey governor is a potential presidential candidate because his rhetoric speaks to the times: Millions of Americans are being left behind by the new economy; they’re losing faith in institutions that are suppose to protect them, starting with government; they are empowered, thanks to the Internet and other technologies, unlike any other time in human history to enforce their will on failed institutions; and, finally, Americans want answers to the big unsolved problems including the national debt, gun violence, and climate change.
They want their leaders to lead.
Christie represents the gubernatorial wing of his party that, unlike Republicans in Washington, understands that nothing happens in a democracy unless rivals work to find ways that they can both win. While the GOP in Washington lost the November elections, Republican governors picked up a state capital seat because, Christie said, “we’re compromising when we need to.”
Certainly, the storm — and, more important, Christie’s forceful response — boosted the governor’s standing. But the tea party’s record lows and Christie’s record highs tell a larger story: Americans are crying out for an end to ideological warfare.
That has developed into Christie’s signature in New Jersey. He began his term promising tax cuts and fighting with the teachers union over tenure, pay and education reforms, but he now preaches reconciliation — a recurring theme in his State of the State address Tuesday afternoon…
Certainly, Christie is no liberal, but his State of the State speech was full of policy prescriptions that conservatives might label big government: “We’ve requested the federal government to pay 100 percent of the costs of the significant debris removal. . . . We have secured $20 million from the Federal Highway Administration. . . . We have worked with the Small Business Administration to secure nearly $189 million in loans.”…
“You see,” he told the legislators, “some things are above politics.”
It’s a lesson that could help the national Republican Party loosen the tea party’s death grip.
Norah O’Donnell: This morning I asked Christie if he thinks the Tea Party has too much clout in the GOP.
Gov. Christie: No, I don’t. I think they’ve had influence. I think everybody who comes to the table in the Republican Party should have a voice. Everybody should have a voice. And I don’t think they’ve had too much influence–
O’Donnell: You don’t think that’s why the House Republicans have not been able to get to the fiscal cliff deal?
Christie: Listen, I think there’s so many reasons why they couldn’t — and a lot of them are personal. And I talked about this in my press conference. I think they get into these toxic competitions with each other. And these internal palace intrigue things that happen. And don’t look at me puzzled, Charlie —
O’Donnell: You mean Cantor and Boehner?
Christie: I wouldn’t limit it to just that. There is competition among all the folks in that room.
The governor left the door open on his 2016 plans, saying his political focus right now is on his re-election campaign in New Jersey.
“You know, anybody who tries to plan four years from now, George, you know, is crazy. The fact of the matter is I’m going to follow the advice my mother gave me, which is to do the job that you have right now as well as you can do it and the future will take care of itself,” he said. “What I want to do now is be the governor of New Jersey, as I said, for the last three years, I’d like to do it for the next four.”…
“I will be more ready than I was in 2012 because I will have done my job for longer and hopefully gotten better.”