Governor Chris Christie easily won re-election in New Jersey and sets a two-year stage of flirtatious will-he, won’t he run for president. Conservatives think he is a Rockefeller Republican and Liberals think he is a bully. Critics call him names and supporters idolize him.
His bombastic nature plays well in NJ but he is also an effective leader who gets things done. He is a “Jersey guy” with a “Jersey attitude” and people in NJ love that as witnessed by his overwhelming victory. Make no mistake, NJ is a Democratic state with some of the most liberal views this side of Massachusetts. For any Republican to succeed in this state is monumental. For a Republican to gain two terms as governor is incredible.
Conservatives criticize him for compromising too much. What else is he supposed to do with a Liberal legislature? Conservatives, who prefer a take no prisoners approach, do not trust him because he vacillates on social issues. Again, what is he supposed to do?
Some conservative talk show hosts want him to fight the fight but that creates gridlock. It seems the conservatives think compromise is evil and want him to take a partisan approach on all issues but, again, nothing will move forward.
You cannot change the game until you are in the game and get to a certain level where you can effect change. Christie seems to be following this course. He is a gifted politician who parses his words as well as Bill Clinton, focuses on enemies like Richard Nixon, and takes moderate positions on social issues like Rudy Giuliani. He is perfect for NJ.
Will his act play outside of New Jersey? Will someone living in Arkansas get a knowing smile and bask in the glory of a NJ wise-ass slap down of some political hack in desperate need of a reality check? I do not think so and, for his sake, I hope he does not try a run for national office.
In his acceptance speech, he relayed a story about his mother telling him to be himself. If he runs for national office, he will have to move to the far right in the primaries if he has any hope of gaining the presidential nomination. The primaries for both parties bring out the zealots who live on the extremes. The only way to win is to be the extreme of your opponents. That changes in the general election and candidates move to the center.
If Christie decides to be true to himself – a moderate Republican – and goes for it more power to him. If he listens to the consultants and does what all candidates do then two things happen. He loses his genuineness and he cannot adhere to his mother’s advice.
Compromising on issues is one thing but compromising yourself is entirely different.
Christie is a gifted politician with a keen awareness of how to play the game. The only difference is he gets things done. I have no doubt that Christie will get things done in DC if he stays true to himself. But this is politics and, in politics, everyone compromises who they are and rationalize the behavior as doing it for the common good. Once they lie to themself, the inevitable next step is to lie to the nation.
Christie has been a revelation to watch in NJ. He compromises on issues but not himself which is unique. That may change if he seeks higher office.