Matt Lewis

Why Christie’s popularity in N.J. doesn’t necessarily imply national success

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is incredibly popular at home — so popular that a lot of observers think he’s the most likely Republican standard bearer for 2016.

They may be right, but my suspicion is that what works in New Jersey might have an inverse relationship elsewhere.

That’s what my latest column at The Week is about. Here’s an excerpt:

“When he hugs Barack Obama just before an election and publicly criticizes Speaker John Boehner (all to help his constituents, of course), he becomes more popular at the expense of the Republican brand. He is effectively saying, “I’m not like them.” This buys him cover — enough cover to enact conservative policies at home.


And it’s not just the public who loves this maneuver — the media laps it up.


Unfortunately, this model doesn’t translate to the national level. At least, it hasn’t so far. Just ask John McCain. The press adored the maverick in 2000 when he attacked “agents of intolerance” on the right. McCain lost.


Eight years later, the press would turn on McCain — an outcome many believe will eventually repeat itself if and when Christie tacks right to win a primary — and then becomes a serious threat to win the presidency (and defeat a liberal Democrat) in the general election.”

This is not to say that Christie can’t or won’t be the nominee — just that his path wouldn’t be as easy or obvious as some believe. Either way, he is likely to play a key role in the future of the Republican Party.