In the early, and later, days of the 2012 Republican primary, a steady stream of pundits kept a slow but steady chant of “Christie, Christie, Christie” humming along in the background, daring the popular Republican governor of a Democratic state to step up to the plate and run for national office. And though he played coy with his supporters, sending proxy messages while insisting that he was devoted to his work at home, the don of Jersey never took the final step, settling instead for a national role as a prominent Romney surrogate.
That was then, and to be honest, we liked the bombastic belligerent. He took on powerful and entrenched interests in his state, met fire with brimstone and appeared unafraid of any fight with any man. But since that day, we’ve seen a couple more press conferences, a few more temper tantrums and a lot more of Mr. Christie. Through it all, one thing has become clear: Mr. Christie will not be the Republican nominee for president in 2016.
What the hell are we talking about?
The Garden State’s governor rose to national stardom for his successful (and viral) campaign against corrupt teachers unions in his highly-Democratic state. And he was a true trailblazer. Since then, overreaching union bosses have been successfully challenged in state after state, most recently in Michigan — the historical home of the labor movement. And while conservatives fawned over his victory and rightly admired his verbose stylings, the real object of their love was what he had done: He had brought common-sense conservative reform to a government many had written off as California Jr. years before.
Judging by Mr. Christie’s actions since his rise to fame, though, it appears that he may have mistaken the true object of conservative’s admiration for him as his confrontational tactics. Whether it was a kerfuffle with an ice cream cone, or an insult over a reporter’s question, the real governator didn’t hold back on his temper. The problem with that? Well, when one makes their pastime making enemies, sometimes they make a few too many, and that, we suspect, is just what Mr. Christie has done.
So let’s get one thing out in the open right away before we even get to winning the presidency: To run for a major party nomination, a candidate requires a serious support base that has the money, influence and drive to put their man’s name on the ballot, and then campaign for him tirelessly. Well, Mr. Christie has that, right? Wrong. Mr. Christie does not have that, and the underlying reason is that whether someone is a fiscal conservative, congressional Republican, Romney loyalist, libertarian dove, military hawk, climate change man, Second Amendment supporter or social conservative, Mr. Christie has pissed them off royally.
We’ll break it down:
Mr. Christie goes to Washington (to piss off fiscal conservatives)
Mr. Christie’s most recent temper tantrum played off of a theme the man has been rightly focused on for a few months now, and is largely characterized by his reaction to the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy hitting and taking the lives of 125 Americans, including 34 in New Jersey and 48 in New York City.
The Garden State governor expected relief, and so long as we live in a system where the federal government confiscates huge amounts of taxes to pay for huge amounts of local projects, his expectation was in line. But when the Congress considered a $60 billion relief bill, there was something amiss: As the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board pointed out, the bill contained “$150 million for Alaskan fisheries; $2 million for roof repair at the Smithsonian in Washington; and about $17 billion for liberal activists under the guise of ‘community development’ funds and so-called social service grants,” among a slew of other waste.
“Far from being must-pass legislation,” the NYC-based Journal continued, “this is a disgrace to the memory of the victims and could taint legitimate efforts to deal with future disasters.”
But if anyone thought that Mr. Christie gave a damn about the fiscal obligations the House has to taxpayers across the country, his comments following the delay of the bill dashed that hope. By not rushing ahead with billions in pork-barrel spending, the House, Mr. Christie said, had “failed that most basic test of public service.”
The following day, Mr. Christie continued, listing off all the things he expected the national taxpayers to fund, including “100 percent of the costs of the significant debris removal that we require” and significantly more than their $20 million “down payment” for the “emergency repair of our roads, bridges and tunnels,” among other things.
All this bluster puts a black mark on Mr. Christie’s reputation as a tough-talking man concerned about wasting taxpayers’ money, and though it won’t likely be forgotten by the hardcore fiscal conservatives of the party when it comes time to support a presidential candidate they can rely on, it would almost certainly be forgotten by the more squishy, but still powerful, leaders in the U.S. Congress. Unless, of course, he had used his podium to make a few more enemies. (Which he did).
Mr. Christie goes to Washington (to piss off all of House leadership)
While Speaker of the House John Boehner took the brave and potentially unpopular step of holding up the relief bill to fulfill his conservative duty to American taxpayers (including those in New Jersey) and stop billions in wasteful pork spending, his supposed political ally in the Garden State put on a show that beat out Democratic wails, hollering, “There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.”
This is irresponsible. Blaming Mr. Boehner for delaying the bill is akin to blaming police officers for holding up traffic to catch a bank robbery. As stated above, Senate Democrats had loaded the bill with billions of waste and intended to carry that loot straight from the treasury, using the death and damage wrought by Sandy as their getaway vehicle.
As Rep. Darrell Issa told Fox News, “They had the opportunity to have a $27-to $30-billion legit relief package, packed it with pork, then dared us not to vote on it.”
Mr. Christie’s chance for a helping 2016-hand from the last remaining Republican in Washington leadership just decreased. But, no doubt, the many old hands who worked the Romney campaign would be grateful for Mr. Christie’s service as a Romney surrogate on the campaign trail? Well, maybe not.
Mr. Christie goes to Washington (to piss off all of Mitt Romney’s men)
While Mr. Christie was an entertaining surrogate, riding the countryside cleaving opponents in two, his tune changed quite a bit in the final days of the campaign — particularly when Sandy hit shore.
Christie welcomed President Barack Obama to New Jersey to tour the damage caused by the storm, giving the embattled Democratic executive what Salon’s Steve Kornacki called “exactly the sort of cross-partisan boost that candidates dream of receiving in a race’s final days, especially a race as close as this one.” (RELATED — TheDC’s Matt Lewis: What’s Chris Christie up to?)
And while the president and his administration ignored the plight and potential disenfranchisement of 10,000 victims of past disaster sites he had toured multiple times, Mr. Christie was asked if potential future President Romney would be touring the damage in New Jersey. “I have no idea,” the former surrogate replied. “Nor am I the least bit concerned or interested.”
Though we seriously doubt that this series of incidents ultimately tipped the scales in favor of Mr. Obama, they sure didn’t hurt him, and we doubt Mr. Christie will be looking for a letter of recommendation from his Romney campaign friends any time in the next couple of years.
Mr. Christie goes to Washington (to piss off the rest)
But it isn’t just fiscal conservatives, congressional leadership and Romney players that Mr. Christie has upset.
During a black tie gala celebrating the notoriously dovish libertarian think tank Cato Institute, Mr. Christie used half of his keynote remarks to belligerently (and, we think, correctly) defend strong action against American enemies abroad.
And despite this, the governor hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the more hawkish in the party. One of his four appointments to an advisory council on New Jersey-Muslim relations was the controversial Imam Mohammad Qatanani, who, TheDC reported, is facing deportation for trying to hide his ties to the Islamist terror group Hamas. This appointment followed other incidents that rightly or wrongly upset the more hawkish wing of the GOP, including calling Hamas member Mohammad Qatanani a “friend;” and appointing Sohail Mohammed to a superior judgeship, despite his history of defending an accused member of Hamas.
When confronted with these criticisms, an exacerbated Mr. Christie bluntly said, “I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”
It is unlikely the governor would want, or could count on, the the support of those “crazies” for a 2016 bid.
Nor could he count on support of those Republicans who see the United Nations’ climate change agenda as a top concern. In August 2011, the Garden State executive said, “climate change is real,” adding that “human activity plays a role in these changes” and they are “impacting our state.”
Nor could he count on that wing of the GOP that cares most about the Second Amendment. In his unsuccessful 1995 run for the New Jersey General Assembly, one of his campaign ads called two opponents out for wanting to repeal President Bill Clinton’s 1994 ban on assault rifles, saying, “It’s dangerous. It’s crazy. It’s radical. It must be stopped.”
Years later in 2009, on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, he didn’t give that wing any more to be excited about, saying, “Listen, I favor some of the gun-control measures we have in New Jersey” and citing illegal weapons and a Democrat-controlled legislature as his main reasons. When questioned on gun control earlier this week, he said, “These are complicated issues,” adding “I’m willing to have that conversation.”
And despite being pro-life and anti-gay marriage, his support for civil unions, while pleasing the already-slightly-alienated libertarian wing of the party, doesn’t wash with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. When addressing social conservative support for a Christie candidacy, Perkins said “he’s made some very questionable appointments of some key positions; he has some backing from individuals who are clearly on the other side of all social issues, so I think he would have a difficult time gaining a lot of support among social conservatives.”
All of which leads us to one very likely conclusion:
Mr. Christie doesn’t actually go to Washington at all
Though none of these players is the end-all-be-all of Republican politics, they all have a say, and while Mr. Christie has earned a lot of respect and admiration for his tough style and good work in New Jersey, he has given every wing of the GOP one reason or another to pass on any real excitement for nominating him to lead the party.
While it is likely that the large majority of these players would support him in a general election against a Democrat, following Mr. Romney’s shellacking, a 2016 run would require more than grudging acceptance.
And while a Republican nomination for attorney general may have once seemed a fun possibility, any official candidate may recall Mr. Christie’s conspicuous change of heart on the 2012 trail.
The simple fact is there’s no living American who can do no evil in the mind of their future supporters, and though we once gathered around the television to watch “Happy Days” and still enjoy the occasional re-run, like that American show, Mr. Christie has jumped the shark. Which is OK for him, really, because in spite of — or because of — his decision to sever so many ties to the national GOP and its base, the governor of the strongly Democratic New Jersey is looking at a 2013 re-election bid without a single serious opponent in sight.
Not bad, for such a jerk.