April 7, 2020

The Christie appeal

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Founded by Drew Pearson 1932

The Christie appeal

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – For someone as impatient as is Chris Christie with impertinent questions from the media, or from voters, the next three years could be quite trying. His landslide victory in New Jersey makes him the obvious choice for Republicans in the 2016 election, and not everyone in the Grand Old Party is happy about it.

Tea Party favorite Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., applauded Christie’s appeal in New Jersey, but said that doesn’t mean he would be popular in other areas of the country. “Clearly [Christie] was able to speak to the hopes and aspirations of people within New Jersey. That’s important,” Rubio said in an interview with CNN. “We want to win everywhere and Governor Christie has certainly shown he has a way of winning in New Jersey, in states like New Jersey . . . so I congratulate him on that.”

Rubio mentioned New Jersey so many times, it was almost like he was trying to stigmatize the state, make it not quite part of the U.S. That may be reading too much into Rubio’s off the cuff remarks, but Christie’s rapid ascension to Republican frontrunner is unsettling Tea Party insurgents.

In the battle for the GOP’s heart and soul, Rubio and fellow senators, Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Tex., are on one side, bolstered by conservative talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. On the other side in this battle royal is Christie and what he imagines will be a renaissance of moderates and Main Street Republicans.

Christie has left little doubt that his ultimate goal is to win the White House. Democrats see him as the strongest contender the Republicans have in a general election. Christie’s challenge is to figure out a path to the nomination that can get around the hold the far right has on the primary process.

He will be under the microscope for the next three years with Democrats and Republicans alike probing for weaknesses. The just-published book, “Double Down,” about the 2012 election, says Mitt Romney passed over Christie as a running mate when the New Jersey governor wasn’t fully candid about his business background, and the Romney team concluded there were too many potential land mines to put him on the ticket.

Christie will also be probed about his health and his weight, which is an area he feels should not concern anyone outside himself and his family. A presidential contender cannot get away with that position. A lot of Americans are overweight, so they can identify with Christie’s challenges, but people are also health conscious and will demand information about the possible toll that extra weight takes.

For all the challenges, Christie has a lot going for him. His victory speech on Election Night sounded like a blueprint for 2016. He talked about working together and the importance of showing up and being engaged even in places where you’re not comfortable, a thinly veiled slap at President Obama’s above-the-battle leadership style.

He has significant appeal among all the groups that Democrats need to win in big numbers – women, African-Americans, Hispanics. And he has a sizeable appeal among Democrats, who like his brash style. Whether that brashness will play well outside of New Jersey will be tested over the coming year as Christie travels the country as the newly inducted chairman of the Republican Governors Association touting GOP governors as a moderating force within the party.

Christie’s willingness to take on the radical elements within the GOP is a mark of political courage. But translating the opening his big win has created into primary wins is a long ways away, and he’ll need all the skills he showed in the hours and days after his state was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Democrats say they’ve seen this model before, a moderate Republican catapulted to the national stage by a devastating event. Will GOP primary voters give Christie a warmer reception than they gave New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani?

© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

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