As John Sides and Lynn Vavreck note in “The Gamble,” their excellent study of the 2012 presidential election, “Despite common portrayals of the Republican Party as dominated by Tea Party members, evangelicals, pro-life activists, and the like, these groups are actually minorities within the party.” The candidates who usually win the nomination are those favored by the party establishment, donors, and mainstream Republicans. “Since Reagan’s nomination,” they write, “every competitive Republican presidential primary has featured the triumph of a relative moderate over at least one if not more conservative candidates.”
For all the bad press over Bridgegate, Christie hasn’t been abandoned by party leaders or major donors. True, some conservatives don’t like him. But the media’s criticism has prompted others to rally behind him. His CPAC reception hardly left the impression that he’s unacceptable to the base. All things considered, Christie may be better positioned to win the Republican nomination than he was a year ago.
As for that poll of Republicans swearing up and down they’d never vote for him? Don’t believe it. In 2011, Gallup found that 26 percent of Republicans would “definitely not vote for” Mitt Romney, who, of course, went on to win the nomination and the vote of just about every Republican in the country.