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.

Christie’s post-Sandy surge has his rivals resorting to the kind of comments they once criticized Christie for. The Democratic senate president, Stephen Sweeney, mused about the fact that millions in disaster-relief aid would amount to a job-­creation package. “I guess he prayed a lot and got lucky because a storm came,” groused Sweeney, who subsequently apologized.

Even as he keeps local Democrats on the run, it’s not clear whether Christie’s success will help him with the national GOP. Some Republicans believe Christie’s chummy tour with Obama gave the President a decisive boost in the election’s homestretch and suggest he was influenced by the fact that the President was about to crush Romney in his state. (Obama won New Jersey by 18 points.) A former aide says Romney, a former governor himself, understood that Christie was simply doing his job. But not everyone has forgiven him, including Rush Limbaugh, who suggested that Christie had a romantic crush on the President and had played “the role of Greek column” for Obama’s re-election. (“If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics,” Christie barked at the time, “then you don’t know me.”)

Christie’s advisers say those memories have already faded—or will soon. “I think that was very short-lived,” says his friend and strategist Bill Palatucci. After eight years out of the White House, Republicans will be desperate to find a winner and may appreciate that bashing Washington is almost always smart politics—and bashing his own party when it is deeply unpopular might be the shrewdest politics of all. George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” slogan in 2000 was in part a way of distancing himself from the Newt ­Gingrich–Tom DeLay Congress. If Christie is easily re-elected in a state that hasn’t gone red since 1988, Republicans will have to wonder if he might be the man to restore their unloved brand.

(MORE: Christie Passes on 2012: ‘Now Is Not My Time’)

Defying Gravity
Even so, the path to the White House is littered with the wrecks of moderate Republicans. Jon Huntsman learned that in 2012. Rudy Giuliani tried to bring his Northeastern moderation and post-9/11 heroism to presidential politics but utterly failed to win over the conservative gatekeepers of the Republican primaries. But Christie is no social liberal: he opposes abortion, vetoed a gay-marriage bill and abandoned his onetime sympathy for global-warming measures. And whereas an image of moderation might have been disqualifying in 2012, by 2016, power-starved Republicans may be in the market for someone more flexible.

Before turning his sights to 2016, however, Christie needs to maintain his standing in New Jersey through 2013. State Democrats insist the Christie steamroller can be stopped. As the emotional response to Sandy fades, they argue, the state’s Democratic-leaning voters will gradually refocus on the budget and economic issues, where Christie is to the right of the electorate. “There are so many issues on which he has not delivered,” says assemblyman and state Democratic Party chairman John Wisniewski, who explains that Christie has failed to lower property taxes and has relied on reckless borrowing to balance the budget. New Jersey is also staggering under a 9.8% unemployment rate—two points above the national average. “It’s not like there’s a New Jersey miracle,” says one Democratic strategist. “The fact that he’s defying gravity doesn’t mean that gravity won’t reassert itself.”

But as of now, that pudding is waiting for proof. None of the state’s leading Democrats have yet agreed to challenge Christie. And it’s a measure of his strength that one Democrat concedes that the party’s best hope might be for Christie to self-destruct with one of his less endearing tough-guy tirades late in the race.

(MORE: Christie Wants More)

It also remains to be seen whether Christie can follow through on his talk of bipartisanship. He remains dedicated to conservative economic principles like tax cutting and reduced regulations in a state where both enjoy limited support. “This is a governor who has repeatedly pushed policies that are staunchly conservative,” says Brigid Harrison, a political-science professor at Montclair State University. “I think he’s found a formula that works, but the reality doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the rhetoric.”

Like the governor, Christie’s advisers are wary of talking too much about the next presidential election. “The governor has been very clear to everyone around him that the focus is on 2013 and nothing but 2013,” says Palatucci. “People are trying to figure out what he’s doing? He’s just doing his job.”

But it’s clear that Christie thinks about how he might take his local success to the national stage. The day after his State of the State address, he played his moment cannily, hitting all three network morning shows.

And when a local paper asked him the same question he was asked in late 2010—whether he was ready to be ­President—Christie struck a different tone. ­“Yeah, you’re damn right I’d be more ready,” he said.

MORE: Chris Christie on a No-Red-Meat Diet

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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.