Will Chris Christie Emerge a Winner?

Jim Jaffe

 

From PunditWire.com:

 

The echo chamber created by Washington’s Beltway wonders how seriously New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential plans have been harmed by revelations that his henchmen took revenge on Democrats by causing traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge. It is far too early to tell, but based on current information it is fairly easy to shift perspective and see how this could accelerate rather than impede his political career.

 

Until recently, conventional wisdom held that Christie’s major problem lay in winning the GOP nomination over objections from conservative Tea Party types who felt he was too much of a centrist, prone to behaviors like collaborating with President Obama. As I understand this faction, they have two objections to Republican incumbents – there is a small number who won’t even talk the talk, but there’s a larger faction who are unwilling to walk the walk by disrupting the go-along-to-get-along Washington culture.

 

Which is to say there are many who say the Federal government spends too much, but few willing to close it down – or even have it default – as part of the effort to drive spending down. Similarly, while many Republicans hate Obamacare, only Sen. Ted Cruz was willing to stage a filibuster in an effort to force attention to the issue. That behavior cemented his relationship with the Tea Party.

 

Gov. Christie’s performance was not dissimilar. He – or his agents – showed the Democrats that he was not unwilling to disrupt things if they were unwilling to give him what he wanted, in this case an endorsement. Coupled with his intemperate attacks on the teachers union, this suggests a personality who’s not unwilling to ruffle feathers, unlike the smooth Washington operators who tend to say they hold their sworn enemies “in minimum high regard.”

So it would appear that what’s happened in New Jersey could actually strengthen the Christie brand within the most conservative wing of the Republican Party that’s generally seen as having a veto in candidate selection. Unless they let Christie through the primaries, he’ll never get a chance to test the theory that he could win centrist Democrats in a general election, as he has in New Jersey.

 

Speculating about the 2016 presidential race now is little more than a series of nested fantasies, but the chattering class generally finds such fact-free debates irresistible. In that spirit, there’s talk about how New Jersey traffic will impact Christie’s chances of winning the White House.

 

There, too, today’s fuss may prove marginally helpful, allowing voters to decide now whether he’s a forceful leader or a bully. Stories between the 2016 convention and election about a conspiracy to stall traffic could prove quite damaging. Airing the issue now minimizes the impact they’ll have then.

 

Author Bio:

For 16 years, Jim Jaffe worked for House Democrats who served on the Ways and Means Committee, apprenticing with Representatives Green, Gibbons and Gephardt before working for Chairman Dan Rostenkowski.

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