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Monday, October 28, 2013

Some pre-re-election thoughts re Chris Christie

I'll be voting for Chris Christie on Nov. 5, partly despite and partly because of my anger at much of the rest of his (and my) party at present. As governor, he's demonstrated a willingness to grapple with fiscal problems and entrenched public-sector unions. He doesn't kowtow to interest groups, including, importantly, the organized right wing, which he has offended through such means as not toeing a denialist line on climate change, and giving a warm greeting (but no hug, he says!) to Barack Obama.

His re-election as governor is, for all intents, a foregone conclusion. His possible entry into the 2016 presidential race has been much speculated upon, and is, I think, likely. Politicians don't work this hard at cultivating a national image unless they have some interest in capitalizing on it. For a while, Christie's bluntness helped win him support of many conservatives; they liked his style even if they did not see eye to eye with him on some policies. More recently, he's fallen out of favor with the right, even as the right has (rightly) fallen in popularity.

New Jersey is underrated in many ways, but it can be a rather rude place. The state's roads, for instance, have an unfortunately high proportion of aggressive, rude schmucks (let's call them what they are). For people in much of the country, New Jersey rudeness can be very off-putting, and surely the sharp edges Christie sometimes displays have some downsides for a national contest--but also some upsides. Even voters in gentler climes might be reassured to see a politician who tells people off who need telling off, and Christie in any case has demonstrated an emotional versatility that can surprise his opponents. His self-description as a "fighter, not a bully" seems to have hit a resonant chord with New Jersey voters.

A big question for 2016 is whether Christie, or any politician not of the hard right, can win the Republican nomination. I think the answer is yes, in that the Republican field is likely to be crowded at starboard with figures including Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, plausibly leaving a center-right type with enough space to carve out a substantial plurality of primary voters. Then it would be on to the general election, against a Democratic opponent who, whether of left or center-left, will be carrying some of the baggage of the Obama years. It's noteworthy how the recent gross GOP irresponsibility regarding the shutdown and debt ceiling has already started fading amid the glare of the Obamacare web fiasco.

I'd be attracted to a Christie 2016 campaign, though there are other possible candidates I'd look on favorably as well (e.g., Condoleezza Rice, Mitch Daniels, Jon Huntsman) in the event that there does end up being more than one hopeful in that center-right space mentioned above. In the event, though, that the nomination does go to some RINO-hunting denizen of the fever swamps, my guess (despite some scenarios to the contrary) is that the Democratic landslide would be of historic and lasting impact.

UPDATE 10/29 6:40 PM: A perceptive post by Seth Mandel at Commentary: "Why 2016 Talk Hasn't Hurt Christie's 2013." Also see this interesting Obamacare/Christie-related speculation by Tyler Cowen.

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