In 2009 Chris Christie was the darling of the Tea Party movement. He gave fury speeches, promised to confront unions and corruption, and offered the party a new and bright face. After four years his star had dimmed in Tea Party circles but it has never been brighter in establishment circles. Yet, if the establishment embraces him it will show they just do not care about winning the White House in 2016. Moreover, it will show they hold great disdain for their party (think Romney 2.0 with more passion).
The above reference to Romney is not made in jest. Christie and Romney are very similar individuals. Romney became Governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and worked with Democrats in the state legislature to reform the state’s pension system, pass Romneycare (ahem, I mean Massachusetts Universal Healthcare), reform environmental regulations and keep taxes low. This agenda was so popular Romney did not even run for reelection in 2006. Christie replaced defeated Jon Corzine in early 2010. Christie, true to his word, confronted the teachers union and to his credit vetoed several bills from the Democratic legislature to increase taxes on those making $250,000 and above (millionaire’s tax).
On closer inspection though, Romney’s and Christie’s successes are relatively minor in these respects. Massachusetts and New Jersey are heavily taxed and even after pension reform, New Jersey is still in trouble (the inevitable has been delayed). Christie’s taking on of the unions was more in jest than action. To be fair however, Christie is a strong proponent of school choice and did embrace the controversial position of expanding school vouchers for low-income kids in Newark.
But get beyond these few successes for Christie and his warts show. First off, he is a fiscal moderate in a conservative party. Heck, Romney was more conservative than him on fiscal positions when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Christie’s vetoing of higher income and property taxes had more to do with his reelection bid (lose conservatives, lose the election) than deep conviction. Case in point, during Christie’s tenure fees at several agencies have increased. Apparently he only focuses on the big stuff.
Christie is also is a fan of the national security state. He has opened a rift within the party by criticizing Rand Paul’s foreign policy views. Note to the Governor, Rand is not his father Ron (much younger), One has to wonder how Christie is reconciling his favorable security state views with new revelations the NSA has broken rules thousands of times since 2001 according to a new Government Accountability Office study.
Christie is a social conservative through and through. He opposes abortion, though he has no means to do so in New Jersey and he is against gay marriage. Yet, while his party may embrace his position on abortion they will want to know what he has done or even said about it. That noise you hear is crickets chirping. On gay marriage Christie is increasingly out of step with his party on the issue (Republicans are moving towards embracing it, if be it slowly) and the general public. It is not unreasonable to expect Christie to try to compensate for these weaknesses by being as conservative on both as he can be. That will hurt him in 2016 either in the primary or general (assuming he makes it that far).
Lastly, when was the last time a Republican from the Northeast was elected President? Bet you would not have guessed it was Coolidge from 1924 (he was first elected in 1920). Since that time Republicans have fielded several Northeast Republicans for the Presidency who did not win, Thomas Dewey (2) in 1944 and 1948, HWB Bush in 92 (we can debate whether is a Texan or Northeasterner later), and Romney in 2012. The GOP’s nominating contests also feature a number of notable Northeast Republicans who failed. Of course Northeastern Democrats have just as often been rejected by the nation. John Kerry, 2004 anybody?
Christie unfortunately is the Governor of a blue state in the Northeast. Sure, he has cross-over appeal and voters love him now but wait until he starts taking partisan national positions and Democrats start hitting him with the heavy guns. Christie is more Romney than the GOP needs, is geographically a wrong fit for the country and is far more bang than buck. But hey, if Republicans want to throw away the Presidency to another Democrat by nominating a guy who appeals to their best coalition (upper scale suburban whites and downscale, rural men and women), I say go for it. Maybe by 2016 the party will have learned its lesson (one can hope).