The Boss

He’s big, he’s brash, and he’s not afraid of picking fights with Republicans or making allies of Democrats. Can Chris Christie bring his wayward party back to the center?

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Photograph by Edward Keating / Contact for TIME

Christie suits up for his annual State of the State address in Trenton, N.J., on Jan. 8.

But what many Americans have seen in Christie is what they don’t see in Obama: someone who is decisive and unfiltered and doesn’t think the world is an impossibly complex place. He may be wrong, he may be right, but he’s never in doubt. It was Sandy that evoked the best part of Christie’s raw persona. If he could be an overbearing bully in political arguments, he was an open hydrant of empathy in the wake of disaster. In the days after the storm, Christie toured nonstop among downed power lines and wrecked boardwalks, doling out countless bear hugs to shattered survivors. It helped a lot that his connection to the devastated areas was authentic. “The pier with the rides where I took my kids this August before the Republican Convention, where I got into that famous yelling match with the guy who was buying an ice cream cone?” Christie reminded reporters. “Those rides are in the Atlantic Ocean.”

Within days, Obama visited the state. Although Christie had delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention and campaigned for Romney, Christie and Obama seemed to bond, flying over storm-ravaged areas in Marine One and exchanging robust compliments. Romney campaign aides fumed that Christie was allowing Obama to play the part of nonpartisan crisis manager just days before the election, and Rupert Murdoch warned on Twitter that Christie would have to “take blame for the next four dire years” if Obama was re-elected. But at home, Christie was celebrated for putting the state’s need for swift aid from Washington ahead of campaign politics.

(VIDEO: RNC Wrap-Up: Ann Romney, Chris Christie and What’s Ahead)

Sandy even conferred upon Christie the ultimate seal of Northeastern liberal approval: respect from the Boss. Christie, 50, is a Bruce Springsteen fanatic who has attended some 130 of Bruce’s concerts over the years. But despite their shared Jersey roots, the pro-Democratic Springsteen wasn’t interested in meeting with Christie and wouldn’t even acknowledge him at concerts. That changed after Obama visited New Jersey in October. During the visit, the Commander in Chief brokered a call between Christie and the Boss. The governor and the rocker later met and embraced at a relief concert for Sandy victims, after which Christie confessed he wept. “He told me it’s official: we’re friends,” Christie told reporters.

In both cases, Christie cozied up to liberal icons but stopped short of actually taking on his own party. That changed dramatically in January. Congress managed to avoid the calamity of the fiscal cliff on Jan. 1, but only after embarrassing ­chaos within Republican ranks. With House conservatives in a state of semirevolt after Speaker John Boehner agreed to a plan that raised taxes on wealthy Americans, Boehner delayed a $60 billion disaster-relief bill for Sandy-affected ­areas, with much of the money designated for New Jersey. Christie went rogue. “Shame on Congress,” he said, singling out his Republican allies with bracing vitriol. “There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their Speaker, John Boehner. Last night, politics was placed before an oath to serve our citizens. To me it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.”

Christie zeroed in on his party’s weakest spot, casting House Republicans as Dickensian villains so consumed by their grudge match with Obama that they were stalling aid to homeless storm victims. Though privately protesting that Christie didn’t understand flaws in the bill, which included several long-te­rm non­emergency projects, Boehner and the House Republicans quickly retreated, passing a relief bill (albeit a scaled-down one) within days of the governor’s broadside.

(VIDEO: Governor Christie on Sandy, Romney and Obama)

Washington Republicans saw shameless grandstanding at the expense of a deeply unpopular Congress—an effort to please Northeastern Democrats and the national media elite. “He seems to be doing what the press wants him to do,” says a Republican operative with ties to congressional GOP leaders. “The popular thing is to bash Republicans.”

Will Memories Fade?
But berating anyone who crosses Jersey is also true to Christie’s nature. Born and raised in the state, he’s fiercely proud of its reputation for grit. A Seton Hall Law School graduate, Christie was a law-firm partner in his 30s until he became a U.S. Attorney in 2002, a position in which he made a name prosecuting high-profile public-sector corruption cases.

That job vaulted him into the statehouse in 2009, but he got off to a rough start. Elected with less than 50% of the vote against a Democratic governor who was a former Goldman Sachs CEO, by mid-2011 Christie was foundering with an approval rating in the low 40s. Through aggressive dueling with the Democratic legislature—­including a heavy reliance on combative, even bullying rhetoric—Christie went after public workers’ pensions and teachers’ unions. He also blocked an effort to raise state ­taxes on millionaires. The moves made him popular among pro-business conservatives but less so with ordinary New Jersey voters.

That’s why Garden State Democrats have seemed stunned by his recent resurgence. It was long assumed that his main 2013 rival would be the talented and ambitious Newark Mayor Cory Booker. But Booker is considering a run for the Senate instead. Another top contender from the state assembly has decided to skip the race, and the rest of the field is unclear and unremarkable. One early-January poll showed Christie leading several little-known Democrats in hypothetical matchups by roughly 3 to 1. Earlier this month Christie disclosed that he had raised $2 million for his campaign without holding a single ­fundraising event.

MORE: Cory Booker Finally Solves Newark’s Hot Pockets Crisis

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108 comments
EliseHarris
EliseHarris

Gawd I am so sick of hearing about Chris Christie on a national level. He is NOT presidential material in any way, shape or form. No way, No how. With his short fuse he shouldn't even be governor. The only benefit to having someone like him as governor is for cases like getting Sandy assistance where it helps to have a loud barker get the bone. So he accepted Obama's federal assistance for help after Sandy. He told the truth when he said Obama did good. So fricken what?? Was he supposed to snub Obama's assistance? Not acknowledge Obama? Because he did, this makes him suddenly the "bipartisan" sweetheart? Yeah right. STUPID! And people are so stupid if they think he's a moderate or bipartisan. But I guess with as crazy & right wing as the GOP has become it could make even conservative Repugs like him look moderate.


bobcn
bobcn

If you want someone who is "not afraid of picking fights with Republicans or making allies of Democrats" ...

maybe you should be voting for Democrats.


geoffmarsh
geoffmarsh

The one thing that concerns me is his anti-global warming view. Ideological differences on moral issues are neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things, but climate change is a real threat that can't become a left-right issue. Hopefully he can fix his view there.

Nonamesweet
Nonamesweet

GOD BLESS CHRIS CHRISTIE!!! WE LOVE HIM IN NEW JERSEY!!! KEEP IT UP..PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!

outsider
outsider

This is a very good read on how to get the party back to Sanity:


Nothing would do more to fix American politics than if wealthy Republicans bankrolled a network of moderate GOP organizations, says Michael Tomasky.


I see that Brent Bozell, who never runs out of ways to spend rich conservatives’ money, now has an outfit called For America, which is mounting a pressure campaign against Mitch McConnell over his role in the fiscal cliff deal. The online ad buy will be targeted to Kentucky and will ask, “Mitch McConnell, which side are you on?”—that of socialism or that of Kentuckyism? What struck me when I read this was: How come there isn’t a group that is taking out ads against Rand Paul, McConnell’s junior colleague, one of just five GOP senators who voted against the bill, asking him which side he’s on—the side of bare-minimum fiscal sanity or the side of ruining the economy for the sake of making an ideological point? Of course there isn’t. But there must be. In fact there is nothing—nothing—our political system needs more than a strong and well-financed moderate-Republican pressure organization.

Think about it. Why is our politics so stuck right now? Because one of our parties has gone bonkers. Oh, sure, the Democrats aren’t altar boys. Fine. But High Broderism is blessedly dying as more and more establishment types come to see that it’s basically the GOP that’s throwing the wrench in the works.

There is little sign, of course, that this behavior is abating. True, we got a cliff deal, but the Washington GOP as a whole is still extremely right wing, and one leading reason why is that Republican House members and senators live in fear of facing primary challenges from their right. Barney Frank put it imperishably in an interview with New York magazine last spring, in a couplet that everyone who cares about Washington dysfunction should bear in mind: “[People] say, ‘Are you saying they’re all Michele Bachmann?’ And my answer is no, they’re not all Michele Bachmann. Half of them are Michele Bachmann. The other half are afraid of losing a primary to Michele Bachmann.”


http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/01/10/wanted-moderate-gop-activists.html

roknsteve
roknsteve

He's big, he's barfy, he's a bucket butt.  He's perfect for Toga Parties but not for President of the U.S.a.

mydads1st
mydads1st

If anyone can, he can. The current set of mis-fits has taken the once proud party of Lincoln and Reagan over the edge of reason and sanity. Chris Christie shows ample ability in both realms.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Chris can't make all of GOP sane; that's the kind of sanitation they're going to have to do themselves.

sacredh
sacredh

OT, but Joe has a good article "Obama's Second Chance" but there isn't a comment feature.

grape_crush
grape_crush

Looks like the Beltway has found their next GOPer messiah, come to deliver us all from right-wing extremism. 

Entirely too much fapping over Christie on the part of the media lately...of course, this happens whenever a GOPer politician acts like he is a reasonable human being (see Huntsman, John.) 

> But the larger and more important questions are whether Chris Christie of New Jersey is the model for the post-Romney Republican Party...

That implies that Romney actually led the party while Romney was actually the one being led. There was never a 'Romney Republican' political party, only a small contingent of center-right GOP establishment and media types who thought that he was the most electable out of a sorry lot of candidates. 

The important question is whether or not that center-right establishment can wrest control of the Republican primary process from its less, um, moderated constituency and the grifters that manipulate them. Judging by the past few national elections, the possibility of that happening is not very high. I would argue (and have, previously) that a center-right, politically moderated GOP is now largely a myth, or at least a facade masking a whole lot of political ugliness. If Christie, our hero-of-the-moment, continues on his current course of rational political conciliation, any of three things could happen; he gets savaged and spit out during the GOP primaries by the party fringe, he 'goes the Full Romney' and appeases his way through the primaries only to struggle in the general...or, somehow, he and his backers are able to marginalize/muzzle the wingnut constituency and escape the primaries with minimal bruising.

Of course, this applies to any GOP pol that occasionally compromises, gives credit where it is due, or pushes back against right-wing ideology or practices an insufficient amount of 'conservative' idolarity. Or not; maybe Tea Party Fever has run its course and the pendulum is swinging back into Clinton-era political boundaries. It's hard to say.



MorphySmith
MorphySmith

when a liberal pub like Time starts pumping Christie, then it's obvious he is no longer a Repub, but a Democrat like David Brooks is. RINO!

he ought to go ahead and change parties now.

grousefeather
grousefeather

I've been a Democratic voter since 1960, but I might vote for Christie if he denounces the previous republican party platform. But, if he just repeats the conservative mantra of small government, low taxes, and bloated military, then forget about it!

fitty_three
fitty_three

@mydads1st  

...and, in all three dimensions, too!  He's a better choice than almost everyone else in that insane cuckoo's nest.

I know.  Nurse Ratched tole me...

fitty_three
fitty_three

@sacredh  

I saw that.  I had to chaw on his ankle a bit for deleting one of my comments.

grape_crush
grape_crush

It's good, except for the part where Klein has to get in his usual factually-challenged/deficient digs about the Democrats.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

I think it is because the article is for TIME rather than Swampland.

Besides, same old Joe advocating for Democrats to be brave and make cuts to hurt anyone but Joe and his ilk. He's written that...a lot.

tommyudo
tommyudo

The GOP base is Southern , rural and religiously insane. I don't see how they are suddenly going to fall over themselves for some bombastic Northerner who says that it's "absolutely nuts" for anyone to think we will be taken over by sharia law. The MSM will try to build Chris up before they tear him down sometime in 2014.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@MorphySmith  

I second and third that, Morphy.

Hells bells, by the time you're done, only dittoheads will be left.

bobdame83
bobdame83

Doesnt mean Christie is necessarily a sellout. The WaPost is famous at this; putting out a small quota of decent praise at a Republican....only when an election isnt imminent. 

Sixty bazillion fawning cover stories on Obama/nasty cover stories on Romney during the election season, vs one positive cover on a Republican AFTER the election...that is Time's 'balance'.

tommyudo
tommyudo

If all the RINOs were to suddenly get a spine and change parties ,and, like Charlie Criss, become part of the  corporate Steny Hoyer wing of the Democratic Party, you then would be left with a GOP, while ideologically pure, would be an irrelevant rump entity, which will be just fine for many of us. Go away Righties, we don't need you. On to the re-education camps you go:-)

MementoMori
MementoMori

@MorphySmith And that's why a Christie Presidential campaign won't go anywhere. Ideological fanatics like this guy pretty much guarantee Christie won't survive the GOP primary process. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@MorphySmith Inbreed much Morphy? Jokers like you is what's killing what was once a great party and is now a fringe extremist group.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> RINO!

Hard not to take this as parody.

> ...he ought to go ahead and change parties now.

The Dems would be happy to have him, should that occur. Not having to toe the right-wing line would help Christie's decision-making be less odious, plus the Dems would have a (currently, at least) popular candidate to run for President in 2016...which they don't really have now.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@MorphySmith 

Yes by all means push your party further into the fringe right elements that lost you the election.  That'll show us liberals.

CCPony
CCPony

This is, by FAR, the stupidest post of the century.  I almost threw-up from laughing so hard!  Let's see... "I'll vote for Christie as soon as he COMPLETELY drops any pretense of being a Republican!  I'll vote for Christie, once he adopts liberal policies like huge and imposing goverment, higher taxes and an emasculated military".  * LAUGHING !

You sir - are an absolute, undeniable idiot.

MorphySmith
MorphySmith

@grousefeather when any liberal voter like you considers a vote for Christie then it means he is NOT a true Repub, but a cloaked Dem.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@grousefeather  

He doesn't seem to governing badly, but then, I don't live in New Jersey.  It'd like to hear some opinions about how he's doing there.

sacredh
sacredh

It's so. I swear. I swear alot.

sacredh
sacredh

I think it's also a case of where the comments would be greater than the article.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@Paul,nnto 

I love that "creative thinking" always happens to mean "What Centrist Joe would do".


sacredh
sacredh

I hadn't thought about that. You're probably right.

sacredh
sacredh

I think it's just an error. The thread would get quite a few comments. Obama in his second term is the Obama I wanted in the first term.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> The GOP base is Southern , rural and religiously insane. 

And absolutely necessary if the GOP wishes to win the Presidency in future years.

> I don't see how they are suddenly going to fall over themselves for some bombastic Northerner...

They're not...but maybe, just maybe, they can be convinced to keep their lips zipped through the primaries with the intent of a bigger payoff if their candidate is elected.

> The MSM will try to build Chris up before they tear him down.

Don't they do that with just about everything or everyone?

fitty_three
fitty_three

@bobdame83  

What do you expect when your party is one step from the cuckoo's nest?

If you want affirmation, go see a counselor.

AlistairCookie
AlistairCookie

@CCPony The irony of course being that it is the Reps who push huge, imposing government (in people's private lives especially), higher taxes (unless, of course, you're rich or a corporation).  As far as an emasculated military...well, I can only think that MM hit the nail on the head for that one.  "Emasculated" sure was a telling word choice.

MementoMori
MementoMori

@CCPony "emasculated military"

It's going to be a while before guys like CC get over the repeal of DADT, isn't it?

grousefeather
grousefeather

@CCPony I'm not stupid enough to vote for a parasitic, free loading, typical work-adverse conservative republican just because he has a loud mouth!    

MrObvious
MrObvious

@MorphySmith @grousefeather 


The real world doesn't work that way; what we vote for is a reflection of OUR values - not the values of the ones we vote FOR.


You seem to think that if a 'librul' touches you, you somehow turn into a democrat. If that was true then there would naturally be a lot more sane people in the world but unfortunately the touch and convert method only works for Jesus.

grousefeather
grousefeather

@MorphySmith @grousefeather Exactly! My point is, that Christie, no matter what people think of him, is still a republican, and pretty much like every other republican. That's what's wrong with him and there's no point in pretending otherwise.  

AlistairCookie
AlistairCookie

@MrObvious This seems to be a strangely common theme for Reps.  The vote for people, simply because they are Republican.  Nothing further.  Doesn't matter what nonsense they spout, if they are the antithesis to everything traditionally Republican, nothing.  Have R after your name?  Get vote.  But us dirty progressives vote for candidates who espouses beliefs, values, and ideas that reflect OUR beliefs, values, and ideas--regardless of party.  That means voting for a lot of Dems, and also some Reps.  But for the Right, it's party first, last and always.