When it comes to Governors who are seen as rising stars in their respective parties, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo likely top the list.
After all, both men represent Northeast states and have received rave reviews for their leadership in the disaster that was Hurricane Sandy. Both men also are not hiding their ambitions for the Presidential elections of 2016.
With even more respect to the two Governors, they are both politically astute and seem to have their fingers on the pulse of how to achieve high statewide levels of popularity. While they have received scorn from the bases of their party for different reasons, they have also received praise from independents and moderates of the rival party. Yet I can’t deny that both men are probably sensing something that will help them greatly in the near future albeit with different styles.
Chris Christie’s schtick, ever since he took office in January of 2010 after defeating incumbent Jon Corzine and independent Chris Daggett, has been to “tell it like it is”. He is no stranger to confrontation and while his oratory skills can be safely described as “bullying”, it works in New Jersey. As a lifelong resident of the Garden State, I can attest that almost everyone has an Uncle from North Jersey that’s like Chris Christie.
My parents, proud progressives in almost every possible sense of the word, are no fans of Christie. They would not even vote for Chris Christie as dogcatcher or as county supervisor. They despise his attacks on teachers, union workers and for his resistance on gay marriage; an issue that he vetoed. But Chris Christie is relatable to them with his proud Mets and Bruce Springsteen fanhood and straight-talking attitude. Whether it’s genuine or not is irrelevant, the fact is Christie does it well. Chris Christie embodies New Jersey in several ways either as a true resident or as a gross caricature.
That’s why it should’ve came as no shock that Christie was openly thankful for the support he received from President Obama in light of Hurricane Sandy. Christie, just like a lot of residents here, knew what a punch to the gut it was to see the Boardwalk levied and the shoreline destroyed.
But it should have been no shock to someone who has seen and studied him, often with disgust, for the past three years to see him publicly rebuke the Republican Party. This is who Chris Christie is. While he IS right in the sense that the Republican Party playing hardball with Sandy relief is disgusting, he is making sure that everyone hears him. He might not be making friends with the establishment for his distancing from Mitt Romney and his taunting of John Boehner, but really who in the establishment hasn’t done either of these?
Now let’s go up the Turnpike and head into New York. Cuomo, who was elected a year after Christie in the 2010 midterms, has long thirsted for the Governor’s Mansion. While serving as the state’s Attorney General, Cuomo was quickly laying the groundwork for a push for higher statewide office. When you remember that Andrew’s father, Mario, was a popular figure in New York (and the Democratic Party), it’s no shock that he would know how to parlay his name into statewide popularity.
But Cuomo has done things slightly differently than Christie. While Cuomo has thrown a few bones at the progressive bastion of the Democratic Party by signing gay marriage into law, raising taxes on the wealthy and decriminalizing marijuana; he’s earned the well-deserved scorn from the netroots.
Cuomo, for instance, has received condemnation for putting Republicans in charge of redistricting and for his suggestion that he preferred working with a Republican-led majority in the New York State Senate.
So yes, Cuomo has done things relatively similar to Chris Christie. Christie remains an unabashed conservative who talks like a moderate while Cuomo has signed progressive-friendly deals but has also played the role as a so-called “equal opportunist”.
The question remains though, what does this have to do with 2016? In fact it has more to do with the 112th and likely 113th Congress than either of these two reading the tea leaves.
Example, Congress’s popularity reached the high level of 9% in August and I am privy to believe that after the relentless coverage of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, it’s dropped to lower numbers. In fact, Public Policy Polling feels confident enough to test out Congress’s approval ratings with awful things like Ebola, root canals and yes, Nickelback.
Now I don’t claim to be an expert on what the general population is thinking, but historically the theme of Presidential elections usually has to deal with what’s happened in the incumbent’s term.
1992 saw Bill Clinton tout his “New Politics” and his status as a fresh face to beat George H.W. Bush who had been on a ticket for the past twelve years. In 2000, George W. Bush espoused his “compassionate conservatism” to those who were disgusted with the Monica Lewinsky case. In 2008, Barack Obama rode the word “Change” to capitalize on Bush’s low popularity and the ongoing financial crisis.
So if we are to peer into the future, I can see both of these candidates espousing that we need to “work together” and put people over party. I would have to imagine that due to Congress’s sinking popularity, that these two savvy politicians will use that to their advantage when laying the groundwork for 2016 and beyond. Both of them will have policy-driven initiatives to plea for their party’s base but also enough credibility from independents who are searching for “common ground” amongst the parties. I’m already dry-heaving at the town hall debates between these two.
Yet this gamble for the general election, that’s what less than 46 months away for those counting, seems pretty steep given how both of these candidates will be launching into an open primary that will be full of elite contenders. Cuomo will have to deal with maybe Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and then the possibility of Deval Patrick, Martin O’Malley and Brian Schweitzer while Christie will see Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and maybe Rick Santorum.
However, this so-called “Huntsman Strategy” isn’t fun when the base catches wind of it; so keep following these two. There will surely be fireworks of some type very shortly.