Christie’s Leadership of GOP Governors Elevates and Tests Him

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Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty Images

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, right, is interviewed by Gerard Baker, editor in chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 18, 2013

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ascended to the powerful chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association Thursday, the latest step in what seems to be a carefully planned march to the 2016 presidential campaign trailhead. For Christie, the benefits of the perch are obvious: it provides a chance to rack up favors with his colleagues, meet swing state voters, and organize a massive donor network months before he is expected announce a bid for the White House.

But the job presents problems as well as opportunities .

While the new position elevates Christie, it’s going to force him to campaign for all of his party’s candidates, which Democrats will use to tie him to some governors’ conservative stances. Indeed on Thursday, as Christie told reporters his “sole focus over the next 11 months,” would be helping elect and re-elect Republican governors, the Democratic National Committee was tying him to the controversial positions of many of those same GOP governors, like defunding Planned Parenthood, opposing gay marriage, and mandating ultrasounds before abortions.

The spotlight itself has its pros and cons: the all-out effort on behalf of the governors will undoubtedly keep him in the news, but already allies are growing concerned that he is over-exposed.

And there are signs that Christie, who gained celebrity for his straight-talking exchanges with the people of New Jersey, is becoming more cautious under the national gaze. Twice in four days, the governor evaded straightforward policy questions. On Monday at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO council meeting in Washington, Christie refused to answer a question about how he would propose replacing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. “I’m not going to sit here and go through a complex issue like that with 16:26 to go,” he said, gesturing to a clock visible offstage. When offered 14 of those minutes to discuss healthcare, the king of the sound bite demurred and blasted Washington politicians for offering sound bite answers to complex policy discussions.

On Thursday, an Arizona reporter at the RGA meeting tried to get Christie, who handily won the Hispanic vote in his reelection, to say whether he supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. It’s a tough one for a national GOP candidate: the party is caught between an angry base and poll numbers that show nationwide favor for immigration reform, and earlier this month, Christie dodged the question on Sunday shows. The reporter asked Christie to answer as a yes or no, to eliminate any confusion.

“By the way, it is very helpful you suggest how we answer the question too,” Christie quipped. “I really appreciate that.  Listen, the fact is we have a broken immigration system and it needs to be fixed and how it needs to be fixed will be determined by the national leaders in this country, starting with the president and the leaders in the Congress to sit down and come to a solution.”

When the reporter pointed out he didn’t answer the question or state his position on the issue, Christie replied, “Yeah, well, I don’t have to answer the question the way you want me to.”

This is quickly becoming a pattern for the Republican governor that cuts against his core argument to voters. As the Huffington Post’s Jon Ward writes, the previous Republican front-runner, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, saw his popularity plummet as he took controversial stances and shifted positions to try to curry favor. In response, the usually outspoken Christie has clammed up. To date, his celebrity status has insulated him from any political backlash — why engage in a political discussion when you can reach more voters on a comedy show. But if it fades, Christie could be in for trouble.

26 comments
mary.waterton
mary.waterton

Chairman of the powerful RINO Governors Association.

This must be a dream come true for the democrats. Control of both parties.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

Do not know how this will turn out. Christie spends more time criticizing his own party than Obama. Spends more time fighting with his prospective rivals in the GOP than criticizing Hillary the probable nominee on the other side. Did not even criticize the Obama Care and when he did, he also criticize his own party to compensate. 

Openminded1
Openminded1

This is a least a real mans man not a lib wimp, he says it like it is, win or lose do not kiss the medias ass. Let the american people here the truth, instead of the normal PC crap that most politicians and wimps use, Pc means lies and bs .

therealdude
therealdude

I've said it many times before and I'll say it again. Christie will never win the primary because conservatives in important Republican stronghold states, especially the South, will never tolerate his social positions and many of them think of him as a rino or an outright lib. That's not just my own analysis, it's what I've heard from conservative relatives living in Kentucky and Texas.

PhillyCannabis
PhillyCannabis

Fat man in a little coat. Faaatt maaaannn in a little coooaaaat.

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

Zeke,  I think you are wrong that supporting conservative governors puts Christie on the hot spot.  To the contrary, his support of Conservative governors will support his bona fides with the base.  Besides, is there any governor who is actually a Tea Partier?  I know that here in Virginia, they tried to paste Cuccinelli as a Tea Party guy, but it was his views on social issues, not smaller government or less taxes that hurt him.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

 When the reporter pointed out he didn’t answer the question or state his position on the issue, Christie replied, “Yeah, well, I don’t have to answer the question the way you want me to.”

Read more: Christie’s Leadership of GOP Governors Elevates and Tests Him | TIME.com http://swampland.time.com/2013/11/23/christies-leadership-of-gop-governors-elevates-and-tests-him/#ixzz2lTKhRrdY


Christie said in seeming reference to himself, “You need someone who’s clear, direct and authentic and says what they think.”

Read more: Chris Christie to New Yorkers: Move to New Jersey | TIME.com http://swampland.time.com/2013/11/18/chris-christie-to-new-yorkers-move-to-jersey/#ixzz2lTKQnvmQ

Hermione
Hermione

@mary.waterton 

This is a dream come true for GOP insiders - a Republican that might actually win the WH.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@Openminded1 But he sure gave a big whooping kiss on Obama`s butt plus that teddy bear he gave his girlfriend. Last time I heard his face is still planted behind Obama`s behind. They are having difficulty pulling him away.

jmac
jmac

@therealdude The same conservatives who didn't want Romney?   Did they really not think Romney was a Rino?  They didn't think he was a Northeastern Liberal?    (He did give us Obamacare - even as the Republicans were running against Obamacare).  

If the party could nominate Romney, they can certainly nominate Christie.    The South is only one part of the country and the establishment isn't going to sit back and let the South dictate if they've settled on Christie.  Christie - who happens to be chairing  the Republican governorship.   That was no accident.    

Hermione
Hermione

@fhmadvocat 

Cuccinelli's social views doomed his chances - nothing more, nothing less.  Everyone that I know that lives in VA (and voted for his opponent) specifically justified their actions for that reason - Cuccinelli did too much preaching.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@Paul,nnto You mean use PC crap, that is nothing but bs lies and crap that most politicians use. this guy told the reporter i do not answer to you and you do not tell me what to say. a real leader not kiss ass.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@Paul,nnto @Openminded1 You do not think democrats are all smart do you? because that would be funny. first off dumb ass, I am not a member of the GOP and I say it like it is about them too, if the shoe fits. as an independent I vote for whom ever i think is right for the position. Not along party lines like you dumb ass libs. You morons would vote for Charles Manson as long as he was on the lib ticket, no matter who was running on the other side of the isle. Morons and wimps the democratic party.

therealdude
therealdude

@jmac @therealdude The establishment?!? ROFL, the "establishment" is dead or definitely dying. As for Romney, conservatives across the country held their nose and nominated him on the sole basis that he was the only one who could win and just look how that turned out. And the only way he was able to pull that off was simply for the fact that he was he was a billionaire with a HUGE spending advantage (sometimes outspending opponents in the primary by 5:1) to blast that message through the airwaves as just about every single other candidate was favored until only he was left. As for Christie, I don't think his pockets are deep enough to pull that off.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jmac @therealdude You could talk all day about Romney and Romney Care. But Romney did not lie more than twenty times that if you like your plan you could keep it period. Your premium will not rise period. You can keep your doctor period. Christie will not be the nominee if the Conservatives and the Tea Party unite. Look if the American people think RINOs and liberals can govern this country let them elect Christie or Hillary. Maybe when everything comes crashing down they would realize their folly.

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

@Openminded1 @Paul,nnto openminded, too bad his New Jersey in-your-face attitude and his soft stand on social issues will kill him in the most of the primaries outside of the northeast, especially in the south.

jmac
jmac

@Openminded1 @Paul,nnto You've been hitting whatever you hit a little too early in the morning Open.  Obviously if you'd read the column or the response, you'd see he already can't "say it like it is" and he's got a long three years to go.   

He's stapled his stomach and his mouth.   

therealdude
therealdude

@fhmadvocat  That has been my point all along. I totally agree he's by far their best candidate for the general. But every conservative I know in Republican states like Kentucky and Texas doesn't like him because in their own words, he's a rino.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@fhmadvocat @Openminded1 @Paul,nnto Times are changing, everyone including the red necks in the south are tired of Obama and his lies and racist comments they are ready for a change . the whole country has had enough of Obama and his gang of liars . 

Openminded1
Openminded1

@jmac @Openminded1 @Paul,nnto No the true meaning of a liberal, is someone who is easy to manipulate, bleeding hearts that trust far to much anyone telling them a story because the person seems so nice. there is more but in the interest of brevity i cut real short.

jmac
jmac

@Openminded1 @jmac @Paul,nnto   If by a 'liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a 'liberal', then I'm proud to say I'm a 'liberal.'   JFK