THE OH, REALLY? FACTOR: CHRISTIE AND 2016

 It was a dearth of other suitable candidates that allowed Mitt Romney to secure the Republican nomination in 2012. The disappointment with Romney’s inevitable nomination was palpable across the conservative blogosphere. Romney’s Achilles’ heel, in the mind of this humble commentator, was Obamacare. How could Mitt Romney credibly attack Obamacare when both he and Obama modeled their respective health care plans on the same Heritage Foundation model? I mention all this not for the sake of revisiting that doomed campaign but rather to suggest that our candidate for 2016 should be one impervious to similar charges of hypocrisy.  

     Two years from now the presidential election will be getting into high gear. By the end of 2015 it should be clear who the possible candidates are that will be on the ballot in Iowa and which of them we can take seriously. Unfortunately, the media often acts as though Governor Christie’s nomination is already a fait accompli. I am not at all arguing that Governor Christie would  not be a good candidate, or that he would necessarily lose to Hilary Clinton, who is assumed by most Democrats to be the shoe-in for the Democratic nomination. I am suggesting, however, that an honest discussion of the governor’s weaknesses now may save us a great deal of misery later on.

     For instance, Mr. Christie has informed Sean Hannity unequivocally that he is an advocate of gun control. In an interview in 2009, Governor Christie told Mr. Hannity that he wants to “make sure that we don’t have an abundance of guns out there.” This was in response to Mr. Hannity asking him if there were any issues on which he was “quote, moderate-to-left as a Republican.” Mr. Christie made it clear that he is hardly a staunch defender of the 2nd Amendment. Does this bother you, dear reader?  How about this: in 2011 Governor Christie stated that “climate change is real” and that humans “know enough” about climate science to know that “we are at least part of the problem.”

     Uh-oh.

     Mr. Christie appears to be ideologically suspect when it comes to Obamacare, too. In February of this year Mr. Christie accepted the expansion of Medicaid component of the ACA for his state, unlike numerous other conservative governors who have a more Manichaean view of the legislation. This is a major problem for a party that has done almost nothing in recent memory except level vituperative rhetoric against the Affordable Care Act. Please don’t misunderstand me – I think that they are right to do so. Yet a Christie nomination may carry some of the same burdens that doomed Mitt Romney’s 2012 candidacy in that his support of at least some portions of the ACA will come haunt him on the campaign trail. How will he champion repeal of Obamacare when he acceded to the expansion of Medicaid in New Jersey? Regardless of how he finesses it, he will likely be viewed as either a Kerryian flip-flopper or a fellow traveler when it comes to the Obamacare issue. Neither is likely to sit well with conservative voters in 2016.

     Do you still want to see Christie secure the nomination?

     There are other problems.  Like Romney, Christie is from the a region of the country – the northeast – that is much maligned by self-appointed “true” conservatives from the Bible Belt or the libertarian Wild West, two groups whose support Mr. Christie needs in abundance to beat the Democrat’s nominee. In keeping with the widely held stereotype that New York and New Jersey politics are a cesspool of corruption, there are a number of controversies surrounding Christie that could potentially tank his candidacy. Recent revelations about the Port Authority’s closing of roads leading to the George Washington Bridge (ostensibly in retaliation for Fort Lee’s mayor Mark Sokolich’s refusal to endorse Christie’s re-election) are only the most recent that threaten to tarnish Mr. Christie’s reputation ahead of a presidential election. Forget  the governor’s corpulence: as detailed in a 2010 Department of Justice investigation, Mr. Christie was profligate in his spending prior to his gubernatorial career and was found to be the U.S. attorney who was most careless when it came to wise use of his taxpayer-funded travel allowances – for instance, by staying at luxury hotels. Mr. Christie was a lobbyist under the infamous Bernie Madoff at the Securities Industry Association. Additionally, the governor routed large government contracts to donors and allies including Attorney General Ashcroft, which sufficiently alarmed Congress that they held a hearing about it. There are other bad smells as well, such as brother Todd Christie’s out-of-court settlement with the SEC over fraud charges. And does anyone remember the governor using a state helicopter to take his child to a ballgame? Any one of these issues alone might be considered so much small beer, but in conjunction they may amount to an accumulative comomon-sense argument against his nomination.

     We have said nothing here so far about the governor’s generally gruff and argumentative manner, his bromance with the President following Hurricane Sandy, or his utter lack of photogenic qualities. Nor have we mentioned Christie’s stance on immigration, which, though nuanced, seems to suggest that he is somewhat softer on illegal aliens than Republican voters might like. He certainly was less than zealous about prosecuting illegal aliens as U.S. Attorney – a total of 13 cases involving illegal aliens were prosecuted by Christie during his tenure from 2002 to 2007. We have not discussed his support for the federal Race to the Top program, which allows states who successfully reform their educational systems to receive substantial grants. These are all topics to which we may return in future essays; for the time being let them serve to spice the stew of reservation we have been simmering on your behalf when it comes to unconditional support for a Christie nomination.

     In light of all these issues, perhaps the relevant question about Chris Christie is not why conservatives shouldn’t  support his presidential nomination, but a different one entirely: why should they? I’m all ears.

Thomas Davis – NEWSslinger Contributor

Thomas Davis is a politically and economically conservative writer living in Portland, Oregon. He is happily married with two children and when not fulminating against the liberal stranglehold on our country, enjoys hiking, country music, and cooking outdoors. He welcomes your comments and questions.