How odd is it for him to take this position? Let us count the ways. One: 24 hours ago, Pew dropped a newsy new poll noting that, while the two parties still disagree on whether marijuana should be legal, they don’t disagree that the feds should lay off on users in states where it already is. Even within the GOP, which remains skeptical of liberalization on drugs, a majority thinks the feds should defer to the states. You can indeed be anti-marijuana and pro-federalism:
Screw that, says Christie. When it comes to deciding whether marijuana’s too dangerous for the citizens of a state to sell, he’ll happily trump your state legislature and local PD. And to think, they call him a big-government Republican.
Two: Until recently, despite his pedigree as a federal prosecutor, Christie had built a reputation for being a bit more moderate on drug laws than the average GOP pol. He’s open to legalizing medical marijuana for sick kids under certain conditions; he’s promoted treatment for nonviolent drug offenders in lieu of prison; he’s called the “war on drugs” a failure repeatedly. And now here he is ready to wage that war even in states where majorities have declared a truce with weed. That’s an … interesting turnaround in his brand.
Three: The factions of the GOP that are most likely to support Christie in taking a hard line on legal weed happen to be the same factions that are predisposed to hate Chris Christie. Right? It’s conservative Republicans more so than moderates who strongly oppose legalizing marijuana, but “Christie” is already a curse word among them. If he’s decided that his only path to the nomination is trying to rebuild bridges with the right, I fear the path will be a short one. The other group that’s strongly opposed to weed, per Pew, is senior citizens over the age of 70, who oppose legalization 29/68. But seniors are also the group most likely to be alienated by Christie’s call for entitlement reform. Meanwhile, the squishy GOPers who already like him (kinda sorta) tend to be softer on marijuana law enforcement and will want to know why Christie’s fashioning himself as a drug warrior. He’s pleasing his enemies here and alienating his allies.
Finally: Like I said yesterday in my post on the Pew poll, Democrats are going to try to use marijuana legalization as a wedge against the GOP nominee next year by putting popular referendums on weed on the ballot in multiple states, knowing that that’ll give left-leaning young adults more of a reason to turn out to vote and that that means more votes for Hillary. That’s a challenge for any prospective GOP nominee but it’s a special challenge for Christie, whose core argument to Republicans is that he’s more “electable” than the rest of the pack. He’s the guy who won reelection in a deeply Democratic state, he’s the guy who performed well with New Jersey’s Latino voters, he’s the guy who can expand the tent. And here he is playing into the left’s hands by taking a hard line on an issue that’ll alienate younger voters who might otherwise give him a close look as a “reasonable” centrist Republican. That’s his “electability” strategy? Baffling.
The only explanation I can think of for why he’d take this line is that he sees a niche for a “law and order” candidate in the field. Republicans think Obama is weak so Christie’s going to play up the contrast by being “strong,” confrontational, and no-nonsense at every turn — on foreign policy, on entitlement reform, and even on weed. Other than that, I don’t get it.