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.

When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took the podium for his Jan. 8 State of the State address, Trenton’s Democratic legislature received him less as the pugnacious leader of the opposition than as its own conquering hero. Christie was welcomed with a standing ovation, and his speech was staccatoed by thunderous applause. So what if many of those Democrats privately refer to Christie in terms not fit to print? As Christie might say, Don’t be stupid: At this moment, there’s virtually no challenging the man. Christie’s textbook performance after Hurricane Sandy devastated his state in October pushed his approval ratings above 70% and sent his opponents scurrying for cover. Local TV commentators wonder if his upcoming 2013 re-­election fight might be more coronation than campaign. In short, Christie may now be America’s most popular politician. And at a moment when Republicans in Washington look ham-fisted, inflexible and incapable of governing, Christie is poised to show a demoralized post–Mitt Romney GOP how to regain its majority status.

The past three months have transformed a man who was already on virtually everyone’s short list for 2016 into something else entirely. In mid-October, Christie was bogged down in tedious wrangling with the state assembly and reading about the various Democrats eager to steal his job. Then came Sandy. Arriving with ghoulish timing just before Halloween, it was the worst storm to hit New Jersey in a century. Almost 350,000 homes were destroyed, 116,000 people were evacuated or displaced, and nearly 7 million people lost power. Huge swaths of the Jersey Shore, where tourism is an indispensable part of the economy, were devastated. The television airwaves were filled with sobbing, homeless families.

(VIDEO: Chris Christie: Master of Disaster)

The moment was ready-made for Christie’s full-bore political style. “Don’t be stupid,” Christie instructed lollygaggers as the storm approached. “Get out.” His response to the storm acquired a nonpartisan sheen when he set aside his support for Romney to tour storm-ravaged areas with President Obama, whose response he praised as “outstanding.” Recently, Christie tore into House Republicans for dragging their feet on a package of ­disaster-relief aid. Calling the delay “disgusting” and an example of “toxic internal politics” of the House’s GOP majority, Christie said it was a perfect example of “why people hate Washington.”

Do they ever. An overwhelming majority of Americans don’t like Congress, and most Americans want the parties to work together. That’s a sentiment Christie is channeling in New Jersey, which voted for Obama and is a place where a Republican can’t hope to survive for very long without real support from Democrats. Although Christie has butted heads with the legislature, he has also won Democratic votes for agenda items like pension reform and spending cuts. Rather than using his popularity to launch an ideological offensive, Christie struck a tone of conciliation in his State of the State address. “We have established a governing model for the nation that shows that, even with heartfelt beliefs, bipartisan compromise is possible,” he said. “The folks in Washington, in both parties, could learn something from our record here.”

Maybe they can. As former Christie campaign strategist Mike DuHaime boasts, “He gets things done. He gets results. And I think people are thirsting for someone who gets results.” But disaster response can create the easy illusion of results, and the hardest parts of ­governing—taxes, spending, union benefits—remain. One question now is whether Christie can show that his standing in the wake of disaster is real and enduring. But the larger and more important questions are whether Chris Christie of New Jersey is the model for the post-Romney Republican Party and whether a center-right, pragmatic, straight-talking politician like Christie can remake the party in his own image.

(MORE: Chris Christie’s Race to the Bottom)

Down the Shore
“Some things are above politics,” Christie said in his State of the State address, a remark he may well have embroidered on the cuff of his trademark fleece jacket. Hurricane Sandy “was and is one of those things.” But Christie also understands that politics is about emotion. And his response to the storm embodied the kind of unique emotional force that can come only from a disaster. “I’m more emotional than I’ve been probably early in the governorship,” he told New Jersey’s Star-Ledger. “I’m supposing that’s a result of just all the sadness and loss that I saw up so close, holding these people and having them cry on my shoulder.”

Christie was already known as one of America’s most authentic politicians. His chief asset may be a candor in the best Jersey tradition of say-what-you-mean bluntness. “I find his policies odious,” says Kenneth Baer, a former Obama Administration hand with Garden State roots, chuckling. “But I like him. There’s just something so Jersey about him.”

For much of his governorship, Christie’s unfiltered persona has been a mixed bag. His willingness to snap back at questioners in public forums has at times seemed fearless but has also carried a nasty whiff of New Jersey Turnpike road rage. Christie recently expressed regret for calling one ­aggressive ­questioner—who turned out to be a former Navy SEAL—an “idiot.” Still, it was part of his charm that Christie could be candid about his shortcomings, ­talking freely about his weight. (“Man up and say I’m fat” was his response to a 2009 campaign ad by his rival that featured a veiled reference to his mass.) With buzz that he might run for President in the air, Christie even told an interviewer in 2010 that he was “not ready” to be President. While endearing, talk like that has led some Republicans to wonder whether he is disciplined enough to complete a White House run.

MORE: Handicapping the Veepstakes: Why the Clamor for Christie May Go Unheeded

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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.