This morning on “This Week,” New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie brushed off criticism reported in the new book “Double Down” from a member of Mitt Romney’s 2012 vice presidential vetting team, saying his advice was not something he should “give a darn about.”
“First off, political advice from people who ran the Romney campaign is probably something nobody should really give a darn about, so let’s start with that,” Christie told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “But secondly, all these issues have been vetted and if I ever run for anything again, they’ll be vetted again.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry says that if Chris Christie runs for president, the GOP will likely have a conversation on the New Jersey governor’s ideology.
“He was a successful governor in New Jersey? Now does that transcend to the country? We’ll see in later years and months to come,” said Perry in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“Is a conservative in New Jersey a conservative in the rest of the country?” Perry asked. “We’ll have that discussion at the appropriate time.”
Talk to early presidential state or Washington operatives and you hear the same thing over and over about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential prospects: He’s the second coming of Rudy Giuliani.
National Democrats have given the idea new life the past week, looking to ding Christie after allowing him to coast to reelection untouched. But the comparison is hardly new: Republicans have invoked it for years, and not in a favorable way – intimating Christie is too provincial and, like the former New York mayor, will prove too liberal to win his party’s presidential nomination. Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has made the analogy privately in conversations…
Giuliani’s brand was “what you see is what you get.” Yet he spent most of the primary process twisting himself into a pretzel to please his party’s conservatives, trying to modulate his position on abortion to the extent he could.
Christie has made clear he is going to pick certain fights with the right that Giuliani never did – for one, calling out people like Cruz who were instrumental in the effort to defund Obamacare that led to a government shutdown.
Many governors said they were intent on making certain that their political parties were not defined entirely by their compatriots in the nation’s capital. Mr. Christie, who will take over leadership of the Republican Governors Association this month, said in an interview that it was especially imperative that Republicans not be defined by their deeply unpopular congressional wing.
“We all talk about the fact that we’re actually accomplishing things and the people in Washington, D.C., are frustrating people,” said Mr. Christie, recounting his conversations with other Republican governors. “We need to be out there talking about our successes to help to build the brand of our party nationally beyond the capitals and have it replace the Washington, D.C., brand.”
The disparity could have implications for the 2016 presidential race. It suggests some of the challenges that Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former senator and secretary of state, could face should she end up running against a governor like Mr. Christie. Historically, governors have tended to be much more successful presidential candidates, even at moments when animosity toward Washington has not been at this level.
First, expect a flood of stories for several weeks in the traditional media about how Christie’s dominant win “proves” that Republicans must “move back to the middle,” forget the social issues and abandon the Tea Party.
As usual, the conventional wisdom will be wrong largely because that analysis misses the key to understanding why Christie is quite likely the most credible politician in America, at least for now.
People believe Christie even if they don’t agree with him. He is not seen as a double-talking, spin-crazy, self-serving professional politician. When public trust in government is at an all-time low, believability is the sine qua non of political success.
The Christie formula is based on two things: policy and tone, of which the latter is more important. The delivery of the message — and the personality of the man — managed to offset what might have been the fatal disadvantage of his traditionally conservative views on contentious social issues (such as abortion), which would have been expected to alienate great numbers of women voters. But he held the female vote, and the racial minorities, against the odds because he sounded like a man who understood and sympathised with — really understood and really sympathised with — the problems of ordinary people. His straight-talking, no-messing, common man theme — uttered in the impatiently uncompromising down-market Jersey street style which has become his trademark — was pitched at an audience that Americans call “middle class”…
Of course, things have changed, both over there and over here. The inherited attitudes are no longer immutable: the US now has a welfare-dependent underclass and an entitlement culture that comes close to being as large an economic problem as ours. It also has a whole cohort of “trust fund babies” — the children of rich families who live on the interest of the investments their parents made for them. This was once almost unheard of: when I was a university student in America, the children of millionaires were expected to find jobs even in the summer vacations, let alone after graduation.
Being self-motivating and personally ambitious is no longer a basic requirement of the American way of life. But it is still embedded in the national consciousness as the model of how it should be — which is where Chris Christie comes in.
As a standard-bearer for pragmatic, non-apocalyptic Republicanism who also hails from a state where lots of rich Wall Streeters sleep at night, you’re going to be awash in money, and with it will come lots of unsolicited advice. Some will be good: the Republican donor class has a better handle on certain political realities than the Tea Party. But some will be terrible, because the right’s donors are loath to acknowledge that their party’s biggest problem isn’t gay marriage or immigration or even the disastrous government shutdown. It’s a brand identity, cemented by Mitt Romney’s persona and “47 percent” remark, as the handmaiden of Big Business and the rich.
To alter that identity, you’ll need substance as well as regular-guy style: a tax plan that doesn’t play just as a giveaway to the 1 percent, a health care plan that isn’t just a defense of the pre-Obamacare status quo, an approach to spending that targets corporate welfare as well as food stamps.
The good news is that you already have populist politicians like Utah’s Senator Mike Lee leading the charge into this territory, so you can follow without worrying too much about being attacked as a RINO sellout squish. The bad news is that you’ll have a lot of big bundlers cornering you to explain that actually it’s much more important to cut capital-gains taxes or preserve the carried-interest loophole for hedge funds, and why can’t you move to the center on social issues and stick with upper-bracket tax cuts, because after all they worked in the Reagan era …
Which they did — in a completely different economic and political landscape. So if you want to have an era of your own, you’ll need to nod politely, crush your well-heeled advice-giver with a handshake, and then take a different path.
Stephanopoulos noted that though Christie had not participated in the exchange, he did expand New Jersey’s Medicaid program under the ACA.
“I do what’s best for the people in the state of New Jersey every day,” the governor responded, “and expanding Medicaid in the state of New Jersey—given how expansive our program already was—it’s a relatively small expansion, but it’s gonna mean a lot, and it’s also gonna benefit New Jersey’s budget.”
Christie affirmed that he was eager to fix a broken immigration system, though he did not comment on the path to citizenship, and also said he was for “violence control,” with a focus on mental health reform, to curb gun violence. He noted he had signed some gun control measures as governor, but vetoed others.
“We need to not pander on these issues,” Christie said. “We need to have adults in the room who make decisions based upon controlling violence in our society.”