Count me a skeptic
“Maybe the folks in Washington, D.C., should tune in their TVs right now and see how it’s done,” said the big winner of Tuesday last.”I did not seek a second term to do small things,” Chris Christie went on, but “to finish the job – now watch me do it.”
Humility is not the governor’s strong suit.
Yet, Christie registered a remarkable victory. He won with 60 percent in a blue state, winning 55 percent of women, half of the Hispanic vote and 20 percent of African-Americans.
If he could replicate those numbers in New Jersey and nationally in 2016, Chris Christie would be elected president in a landslide.
“(T)his fellow is really on the right track,” says seven-term Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, “if the Republican Party is not too stupid.” To fill out Christie’s ticket in 2016, Hatch proposes Susana Martinez of New Mexico, who made eight campaign stops with Christie on Monday.
Democrats concur with Hatch. The headline on the lead story on page one of Thursday’s Washington Post reads: “Democrats Take Aim at Christie: He’s Seen as GOP’s Best Hope for 2016.”
“The Elephant in the Room” is the title of Time’s cover story.
And with the corporate contributors and Beltway bundlers gravitating to him, Christie is emerging as the establishment’s hope to recapture the GOP from its Tea Party, libertarian, social conservative and populist wing.
Will Christie be the candidate in 2016?
Put me down as a skeptic.
Some of us yet recall James “Scotty” Reston of the New York Times writing in 1963 that Nelson Rockefeller had as much chance of losing the Republican nomination as he did of going broke.
Comes the retort: Christie is no Nelson Rockefeller, but a pro-life conservative with five kids and Middle American values.
Why then the skepticism?
Geography, persona and culture – for openers.
The Republican Party is a Southern, Midwestern and Western party, suburban and rural. Not since Tom Dewey in 1948 has the GOP nominated a candidate from the urban Northeast.
And Chris Christie is not only from New Jersey; he is indelibly and proudly so.
The candidate who comes closest to him is Rudy Giuliani, hero of 9/11. Christie may be the hero of Hurricane Sandy, but Sandy is not remembered nationwide like the shock and horror 9/11.
As Rudy won two terms in the toughest turf in America for a Republican, New York City, Christie has now won two terms in New Jersey.
So, how did Rudy, who started off 2008 as the front-runner in the Republican polls, do? He did not win a single primary.
Then there is the “in-your-face” persona of Christie, a pol who does not suffer fools gladly and is forever finding them along rope lines and at town hall meetings.
Not a good fit for Cedar Rapids or Sioux City.
Moreover, Christie seems to have no coattails. Despite his triumph, he failed to make significant gains in the state House or state Senate, both of which remain solidly Democratic.
Then there is the reputation Christie has built as a self-centered politician. At the 2012 GOP convention, his prime-time address was the political counterpart of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” Mitt Romney went unmentioned until 16 minutes into the speech.
According to Chuck Todd of NBC, though heading for a blowout, Christie rebuffed a desperate plea to come down to Virginia for a few hours to help Ken Cuccinelli, whose late surge almost won the state.
And while Christie embraced and thanked President Obama profusely for federal assistance during Sandy, when asked about a visit by his party nominee Romney to view the damage, he retorted, “I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested.”
Christie trounced state Sen. Barbara Buono, who was abandoned by her party. Yet, according to an NBC poll, were he running for president against Hillary, Christie would lose New Jersey 48-44.
In congratulating the governor, the Wall Street Journal noted that Christie has failed “to improve the state’s economy. New Jersey ranks 49th in the Tax Foundation’s state business tax climate index, ahead of only New York. The state jobless rate is still 8.5 percent, among the 10 highest in the country.”
Christie appears to be peaking more than two years before the Iowa caucuses. And not only will Democrats be spending 26 months blocking him in Trenton and trashing him nationally, so, too, will those elements in the GOP who see in the coalescing Chamber of Commerce-Beltway elite alliance a plot to seize the party from them.
These folks will not be going gentle into that good night.
Nor is Christie being helped by all the bouquets being tossed his way by a media that regards his party’s base as extremist. If a civil war is coming inside the GOP, does Chris Christie wish to be the champion of the establishment?
Because that is where the forces assembling are pushing him.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”