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Okay, in the aftermath of an election, you tend to hear some pretty huge hyperboles being tossed around. You hear words being tossed around like “mandate”, “game changing” and almost always a peek into the future as the news media craves horse race news.
It is sickening but as much as we hate to admit it, we love complaining about Chuck Todd or Peter King in front of some map of Iowa and spouting platitudes about how Chris Christie’s personality will REALLY GO WELL in Cornville, Iowa (“blue collar folks LOVE him!”).
But I digress because as the sole blogger of a political website that thrives (50 views a day!) on election news, I am one of the biggest supporters of more horse race news. So bare with me for a bit because like it or not, we are getting closer and closer to the seasons of Iowa visits, ongoing speculation about backbench Congresspeople (“Louie Gohmert has publicly mentioned that he could see himself in the White House”) and exploratory committees forming.
However, last night was a pretty big night for myself. As a New Jersey resident, this summer and fall has been a pretty big deal in general. We had a contested Senate primary to replace the late Frank Lautenberg, the following general election, a gubernatorial race and various statewide contests. While the races were overall snoozers, it still provided us with some answers.
Mainly that Chris Christie will be the favorite to be the Republican nominee for President in 2016.
Now, let’s get some things settled first and foremost. There was no way in hell that last night’s gubernatorial election in New Jersey would be even close, let alone result in Chris Christie losing to state senator Barbara Buono. With the state-level party easily willing to ditch Buono and embrace the incumbent, the massive fundraising edge possessed by Christie and his personal national popularity facing off against the sparsely known Buono; it was destined to be a blowout.
Also, Christie was always the favorite to snag the nomination and his other rivals have very little shot at stopping him with the exception of either some terrible gaffes or horrendous scandals. Anything can happen (Rudy Giuliani comes to mind immediately as does Hillary Clinton) but frankly, it would be asinine to disagree with the fact that it’ll be hard to topple Christie.
But considering that the calendar is officially past November 5th, 2013; Christie will be on a collision course with 2016. As a liberal Democrat, I have no problems spousing all of the truths about Christie. He’s just as anti-union as Scott Walker, as socially conservative as any generic Republican and his “bold” political move was hugging the President in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Still though, perception matters and right now Christie has a lot going for him. At the risk of sounding like someone who craves nostalgia and shares BuzzFeed lists, I remember a time when Chris Christie’s public meltdowns were considered just that. To some who weren’t partisan, he looked like an egotistical bully that was going to do his own thing, be damned! For him though, his own thing was fairly similar to what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin only with more personality and less political carnival. The Democrats were all too keen to roll over.
The aftermath of Sandy though did change something. Christie embraced the President, publicly announced how he didn’t care about the upcoming presidential election at the very moment, blasted the Republican-held House of Representatives, appeared on Letterman and cleaned up his image a tad with his genuine (yes, I believe the word genuine counts) sadness over the destruction of the boardwalk.
All of a sudden, Christie’s temper tantrums started to look different in a reflective light. The general consensus (this of course without cited sources but general belief) was that Christie may not be someone you agree with all the time but by golly, he listens to no one and he’s a straight talker!
If there is one thing that gets Middle America and the stereotypical “blue collar” (FYI: blue collar shouldn’t just mean people who would be played by John Goodman in a sitcom or television movie, it should be anyone who ISN’T perceived to be wealthy) worker excited it is someone that sounds like how they fantasize they would sound if they were an elected official. It’s the same semi-populist language that drew people initially to Sarah Palin or any other “folksy” candidate (on either party).
Pundits also love it because they can debate on how genuine or truthful guys like Christie are when they begin to promote themselves. You will hear how Christie called out Congress, which is not a bold move when you consider Congress’s unpopularity and how Christie doesn’t serve in D.C. so he can take an outsider’s approach, but also look at how he vetoed minimum wage increases and marriage equality.
But it makes Christie a threat and he looks really strong right now especially given how the rest of the field looks. Marco Rubio has nothing to run off of and is frankly the ultimate amateur who would be over his head running in 2016. Rand Paul is outing himself as a plagiarizer with a staff that would not be able to organize a presidential campaign. Ted Cruz is strictly a political extremist that is highly popular amongst a highly unpopular segment of the political spectrum with a high level of combustibility. Jeb Bush’s time has likely come and gone plus Christie is a more personable version of him anyway.
Now a lot of hay gets made of how right wing conservatives hate Christie just as much as progressives. The thing is though, they hated Mitt Romney for the same reason. They did nothing to stall him. We have this perception that if you don’t win Iowa, you are basically done as a candidate even though Romney got edged out by Rick Santorum (!) last year and Mike Huckabee won in 2008.
The most important thing is money, organization and fundraising. Romney had all of that as it was basically inevitable that he would survive the primary season. Even though Christie will be attacked frequently, he will be able to probably float above the inter-conservative squabbling on who is more likely to eliminate LGBT people from the country and deport Hispanics while receiving an endorsement from Kirk Cameron. They will be more concerned on who will be the “not-Christie” as opposed to winning the damn nomination.
All Christie has to do is coast until Super Tuesday. He doesn’t need to trounce the field, he just needs to spread their resources thin. He can set up base camps in various states while Santorum-lite candidates go all in on Iowa; hoping to get by which is probably the best position one can be in.
Does that mean he will win? No, but it looks really hard to envision him losing.
Still the thing is, how do you topple Chris Christie in a general election? His schtick, as tiring and obvious as it is, still connects with independent-minded voters. They eat that stuff alive. Too much of it could wear thin at a certain point plus if Hillary Clinton is the nominee; Christie will have a tough time against a battle-tested candidate.
To beat Christie though, you have to go after the jugular. You have to look at some of the failed promises, the missteps, the likely implosions, the pro-Koch legislation, the fact of the matter that everything he provides is merely lip service as opposed to measurable political accomplishments. With Christie you get a guy who toots his own horn and merrily pats his own back because he said a witty thing about gridlock. But do you get anything out of it?
Time will tell.