Chris Christie and Hillary Rodham Clinton are the “hottest politicians” in the nation, according to one new poll…

Christie, the New Jersey governor and potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, rates 53.1 degrees on what Quinnipiac University calls its “thermometer of voters attitudes towards the nation’s major political figures.”…

[Pollster Peter Brown] added: “But Gov. Christopher Christie’s rating is impressive given that his experience — less than four years as governor — pales compared to Mrs. Clinton’ s résumé. What is interesting is that only two of the 22 figures rate better than the absolute middle of the scale, not exactly a ringing endorsement of the nation’s political establishment.”

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LB: Which contemporary political figure do you think has the most dramatic potential?

[Aaron Sorkin]: I think it depends what situation you put the political figure in. Other people are going to say Hillary Clinton so I’m going to say Chris Christie. He’s got a tough needle to thread in the next few years.

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In July, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had a set-to over American foreign policy. Christie clumsily denounced “this strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought.” It was clumsy in its garbled syntax but also in its ill-considered shot at “libertarianism.” What he meant to say, I think, was “isolationist,” and that is the term a host of commentators on the left and right are using to describe Paul and his ideas. Even the inestimable Charles Krauthammer sees in Paul the “return of the most venerable strain of conservative foreign policy — isolationism.”…

The self-avowed isolationist movement died in the ashes of World War II. But while it lived it was a bipartisan cause, just like interventionism. Similarly, the competing impulses to engage the world and to draw back from it aren’t the exclusive provenance of a single party; rather they run straight through the American heart. And neither impulse is always right for every challenge. Even most hawks preferred a cold war to a hot one with the Soviet Union. And most doves supported striking back against Al Qaeda after 9/11…

Krauthammer is absolutely right that the GOP is going to have a big foreign policy debate — and it should (as should the Democrats). I’m just not sure bandying around the I-word will improve or illuminate that debate very much.

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I can’t shake my dismay at Gov. Chris Christie’s comments, 12 days ago, on those who question and challenge what we know or think we do of the American national security state…

Christie is wrong that concerns and reservations about surveillance are the province of intellectuals and theorists—they’re not. He’s wrong that their concerns are merely abstract—they’re concrete. Americans don’t want to be listened in to, and they don’t want their emails read by strangers, especially the government. His stand isn’t even politically shrewd—it needlessly offends sincere skeptics and isn’t the position of the majority of his party, I suppose with the exception of big ticket donors in Aspen…

What is surprising here is that Christie is so quick and sloppy with his denunciation of conservatives who are acting like conservatives. It is odd because he, too, is a conservative.

His remarks were bad in another way, and it is connected to the word manipulation.

His comments on surveillance were an appeal only to emotion, not to logic and argument and fact, but emotion. This is increasingly the way politics is done in America now. It’s how they do politics at the White House, where the president usually doesn’t bother to make a case and instead just tries to set a mood. But it’s not how Christie normally approaches public questions. In speeches and appearances in the past he’s addressed the logic of the issue at hand, whether it’s spending or the implications of pension promises, or union contracts, or tax rates. That’s part of why he’s been so popular—he’s blunt and logical, has an argument to make and makes it clearly.

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What those in both corners of the political spectrum should understand is that Christie has governed New Jersey as a straight-down-the-line, if not pragmatic, conservative. And there is no indication that a President Christie wouldn’t govern in the same conservative way.

Consider this: Planned Parenthood clinics have solely closed because of Christie (he has rejected state funding five times). New Jersey is one of two states in the entire northeast without gay marriage (he vetoed a gay marriage bill). And the minimum wage remains $7.25 an hour (he punted to voters, who will decide in November whether to raise it).

Christie has cut business taxes and provided $2.1bn in subsidies and grants for corporations. By refusing to continue a so-called millionaire’s tax, he kept taxes down for the wealthy. And by cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit, he effectively raised taxes on the working poor.

He has demonized public employee unions, forcing teachers, cops and public workers to pay more for health benefits and pension contributions. Despite one of the toughest teachers’ unions in the nation, he has succeeded in getting through several “education reform” measures – like charter school expansion, merit pay and tenure tied to performance instead of seniority. He pulled out of a major project that would have boosted public transportation, and a multi-state treaty that sought to limit carbon emissions.

Christie did all of this despite a Democratic Legislature in one of the bluest states in the country. What more could conservatives want?

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Christie checks the crucial boxes of the religious and business wings of the Republican Party. He’s pro-life and he’s against gay marriage. He has solid credentials opposing taxes and attacking unions, which will eventually compliment a reformist, conservative domestic policy agenda. His great acts of moderation are on immigration, where many of the contenders are on the sage page, or on guns, which isn’t anything close to a litmus test—especially in the states Christie is counting on. Maybe Medicaid expansion will be a big issue, but history suggests that Republicans are willing to nominate candidates with deficient conservative credentials, so long as they don’t violate a few sacred rules about abortion and taxes.

It’s surprisingly easy to envision Christie winning the nomination. His conservative credentials are pretty good, so now all he needs to do is get Republicans to remember. That shouldn’t be hard for Christie. His charisma and brass-style will make him an excellent Obama-, union-, and liberal-basher once he wins reelection. It’s easy to envision him cleaning up the debates, like Newt Gingrich before South Carolina. It’s worth recalling that he was once a Tea Party favorite for exactly this reason. Unlike 2008, when Giuliani’s northeastern starting point was interrupted by Romney and McCain, there’s not another northeastern, maverick-y candidate to prevent Christie from doing well in a state like New Hampshire, Michigan, or Florida. If Jeb Bush doesn’t run, there isn’t another candidate better positioned to start locking down endorsements and donors. Electability will help, too.

Perhaps the biggest danger for Christie is discipline. He could easily start bashing his conservative opponents instead of president, just like Jon Huntsman. But if Christie sticks to the Obama-bashing game plan, he could easily be the nominee, even if it’s hardly assured. And in this most critical respect, he’s no Giuliani.

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What is at stake instead is Christie’s relationship with the rest of the country and with his party: He is running, in New Jersey and outside it, an identity campaign. In this campaign, the governor has taken a pointed pleasure in noting the splits between himself and the predominant conservative mood, deeply partisan and profoundly anti-government. There was his famous embrace of President Obama during Hurricane Sandy and afterward, and his denunciation of the conservative congressmen who bridled at funding federal relief of the Jersey shore. Recently, he has begun to make the contrast of ideas direct: At an Aspen Institute forum in Colorado late last month, in a conversation about the national security state, he chose to speak broadly, calling “the strain of libertarianism” that had engulfed both parties, but especially his, “is a very dangerous thought.”…

We have never had a president as outwardly angry as Christie, but then this country has rarely been as angry as it is now. In the tea-party era, conservative anger has often been channeled by figures such as Michele Bachmann and Ted Cruz into a hysteria over very abstract and inflated threats: health-care death panels, the national debt, the specter of a country overrun by illegal immigrants. Christie’s use of anger is very different: It is much more targeted, and therefore potentially much more useful…

What Christie is doing when he starts arguments with other Republicans—and it is telling that what looks very much like a presidential run has begun with a sequence of fights—is offering his party the chance to preserve its anger, while trading in its revolutionaries for a furious institutionalist.

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Via Mediaite.

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