During a speech last month with no national television audience to pander to, Christie called for more bipartisanship in Washington. “New Jersey has proven that a strong, principled, conservative governor can work with two strong, progressive leaders in the legislature and find common ground,” he said, referring to the Democrats who lead both houses of New Jersey’s Capitol.

That message didn’t resonate with Rubio. His speech was short on new ideas and long on tired, recycled Republican bromides. Obama, he said, believes America’s free enterprise system is “the cause of our problems. That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough.” It doesn’t matter that Obama never uttered those words. Talk like that makes Rubio a darling of the rabid right — and boosts his chances of winning their support in the 2016 GOP presidential primary campaign.

Christie, on the other hand, is betting the American people have tired of the intransigence of the political right and left. He’s hoping that in a tug of war, mainstream Republicans will regain control of the GOP presidential candidate selection process and clear the way for him to become the party’s standard-bearer in 2016. Christie is a greater threat than Rubio to chip away at the coalition that twice hoisted Obama into the White House.