Reveling in victory, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) used his election night speech to lecture his petulant party. He talked about reaching across the aisle, compromise, going to places where it isn’t comfortable. All these things are anathema to the agitated base of the GOP, but are recognized by more clear-eyed Republicans as a roadmap to electoral success at the national level.
Christie’s oration led National Review editor Rich Lowry to ask an interesting question in an opinion piece for Politico: “Can Chris Christie be the Republican Bill Clinton?”
Like Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas in the 1980s, Christie is operating on hostile partisan and cultural territory, and managing to thrive by co-opting or neutralizing natural enemies.
Like the “explainer-in-chief,” Christie has a knack for public persuasion. The New Jersey governor’s relentless town halls during the fight for his public-sector reforms were model examples of making an argument fearlessly and effectively.
Like Clinton, who so famously felt people’s pain, Christie connects. He has a reputation for confrontation — rightly — but Christie’s emotional range is much broader. His response to Hurricane Sandy was, in part, a great act of empathy. Near the end of his victory speech, he spoke about hugging New Jerseyeans.
All that Lowry love led a New Jersey political source to e-mail his disagreement. “He’s proven me wrong before,” he said of Christie, “but I think Rudy Giuliani is the more apt comparison.” And then he succinctly made a convincing case.
Anyway, you remember President Giuliani, right?
Italian American — check
Former prosecutor — check
From the Northeast/NY Metro area — check
Bully — check
Thin-skinned — check
Two-term chief executive — check
Built his rep on the backs of a disaster — check
Ridiculous hype about his prez aspirations — check
Questions about his conservative bona fides — check
Chief strategist named Mike Duhaime — check
The ridiculous hype about Christie’s presidential ambitions is amusing to watch. He’s the dream candidate of the GOP establishment and the media who doesn’t stand a chance of winning the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. This is especially so if the rules continue to reward pure conservatives over conservatives who could win a national election.
Also, might I add that being a thin-skinned bully doesn’t play well outside of the New York media market. Folks love all that tough talk and dressing down of others until it is directed at them or their neighbors and friends on the campaign trail. Also, there is a difference between playing attack dog as a surrogate and being the attack dog at the top of the ticket. No one wants to see that in a potential president.
Still, given his blowout reelection over his Democratic opponent in a state that President Obama carried handily in 2012, the GOP might be smart to nominate Christie. Especially if he does what Lowry says and develops a conservative reform agenda focused on the middle class. But Republicans lately have shown that their capacity for dumb moves is limitless.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj