Responding to embattled Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s scandals concerning “Bridgegate” and Hurricane Sandy Relief funds, conservatives have been more anti-mainstream media, anti-President Barack Obama, and anti-Hillary Clinton than pro-Christie.
Their support, though, has been far from enthusiastic, showing how difficult it will be for Christie to not only win the Republican presidential nomination if he becomes a candidate but to win in the general election if he gets the nomination.
The mainstream media–and his friends at MSNBC–have turned on Christie, and conservatives have again defended an establishment Republican more than the establishment has ever defended them. Conservatives have pointed out that Christie has taken more accountability than Obama and Hillary Clinton have on Benghazi and how the mainstream media have scrutinized the “Bridgegate” scandal far more than Benghazi, which was a much more significant scandal in which a U.S. Ambassador was murdered.
But they have not defended him as fiercely as they would someone like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) or former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Conservatives relentlessly and ferociously defended Cruz, for instance, when he was attacked as a McCarthyite and when a former roommate who is a liberal Hollywood screenwriter with an ax to grind trashed him in the mainstream press. And Palin, who is still the most liked person among Republican presidential primary voters, has arguably the fiercest supporters in politics that make thin-skinned “lamestream media” reporters want to shut off their email boxes and Twitter accounts once her supporters feel that she has been wronged or unfairly treated by the press.
Republican establishment politicians are infamous for abandoning conservatives after they ask them to dance. Christie, though, has never even courted the Tea Party movement and the conservative base, having spent the better part of the last four years kissing up to the mainstream media along the so-called “Acela corridor” and allowing them to use him to denigrate the Tea Party movement and conservatives. Though Christie may have calculated that it was not in his best interests to embrace the Tea Party because of New Jersey’s more bluish-purple politics, he has rubbed the movement the wrong way by jabbing them as much as he has Obama, whom he infamously embraced a week before the 2012 election, and the mainstream press.
As a result, there is nothing to indicate that should Christie win the nomination, the conservative grassroots would again just dutifully vote for him while pinching their noses while not as enthusiastically knocking on doors, calling their friends, and dragging ten others to the polls to put him over the top as they would for someone they considered one of their own. And in a country that is becoming more polarized and fragmented, that usually makes all the difference.
Ask Mitt Romney, who won independents but lost in 2012 because Obama turned out more liberals than Romney did conservatives because conservatives refused to crawl on broken glass for a candidate they never thought was one of them. That is a dynamic Rush Limbaugh always speaks about when blasting the myth of the so-called “moderates” or “independents” that supposedly decide elections.
McCain, who said the mainstream media were his “base,” and Romney, whom the mainstream media anointed as the GOP’s nominee, were abandoned by their “backers” in the press as soon as they became the party’s nominee and a threat to Democrats. And the mainstream media’s assault on Christie shows that dynamic will be no different if Christie wins the nomination and proves that he will need the grassroots base to win.
Christie has said he is not concerned about the Tea Party. And the conservative base, outlets, and radio programs in turn have been more concerned about stopping amnesty, which Christie supports, and Obamacare, the funds for which Christie accepted by expanding Medicaid, than defending Christie.
Christie had a chance to fight for a conservative during Virginia’s gubernatorial contest in 2013 and help Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli win the so-called independents with whom Christie supposedly polls so well. But he offered no help and lost any chance at getting some goodwill. As Breitbart’s John Nolte wrote:
Here is one big difference between the Tea Party and the GOP Establishment: When the family fight is over, the Tea Party still fights for the family. We didn’t care for Mitt Romney, but once he was our guy, we fought our hearts out for him. And we would have done the same for the establishment choice had Cuccinelli not prevailed. In Virginia, though, after the family fight was over, the Establishment scooped up their marbles and crybabied all the way home.
From the looks of the exit polls and the massive money gap, that crybabying might have been the margin that handed Terry McAuliffe and, more importantly, the Clintons, a vital 2016 swing state.
If Christie wins the 2016 Republican nomination but loses Virginia, and with it the general election, last night should be remembered as the most short-sighted and spiteful cutting off of the nose to spite the Tea Party in years.
The GOP Establishment and Morning Joe crowd keep lecturing the Tea Party about how it is all about winning elections. In Virginia last night, that talking point was laid bare as nothing more than a lie.
Helping Cuccinelli, who has since called for Christie to resign his chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, would have, of course, diminished Christie’s standing among the mainstream press and political elite in the permanent political class. They adore him because he is the antithesis of the Tea Party movement, which is an image Christie himself has carefully cultivated and crafted. He was mentioned so many times on Morning Joe that the left-wing outlet BuzzFeed wrote a story about their “love story.”
Christie, who has been labeled the anti-Ted Cruz, went out of his way to take veiled shots at Cruz during the government shutdown debate. And Because Christie is not associated with conservatives, the Republican establishment and the mainstream media have always given him the benefit of the doubt in a way they never have to conservative politicians. When Christie frivolously spats with conservative writers and Tweeters, he is hailed for aggressively controlling the narrative instead of being thin-skinned. When Christie yells at his constituents, he is lauded for being brash, while someone like Palin is castigated for calling out the mainstream press for more legitimate reasons.
The Tea Party movement is hardly fading–grassroots conservatives have handed Obama defeats on a range of issues, from gun control to amnesty, that forced the White House to concede that Obama had been badly“damaged” after 2013. Similarly, the movement’s lack of support for Christie has coincided with his general poll numbers plummeting during his ordeals.
Perhaps the mainstream media joined with the Republican establishment to build Christie up because they knew he is against most of the policy objectives favored by Tea Partiers–Christie has said that Washington should follow his lead in compromising with Democrats to enact New Jersey’s version of the DREAM Act, for instance. Or the mainstream press may have wanted access to his advisers in case he won the nomination. Or, more nefariously, maybe those in the liberal press know that Republicans who do not have the support of the base (see: George H.W. Bush in 1992 after he reneged on his “no new taxes” pledge, Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012) lose in general elections, and that is why some outlets are still trying to spin that Christie may have more support on the right than he has even as they continue their process of taking him down.
But what a Republican donor said about Christie two weeks ago in Florida will always ring true about the mainstream press when it comes to Republicans, and that is something Christie is learning perhaps better sooner rather than later.
“Charlie Crist got a lot of grief for what was called a hug of Obama. But what Christie did to Obama isn’t suitable to say in a family newspaper,” a Republican donor in Florida said. “I firmly believe he helped swing that election in Obama’s favor just to help himself. I busted my ass for two years raising money and supporting Romney and this guy Christie just wiped his hands of us when we were no longer useful to him.”
One of Christie’s greatest assets is his supposed ability to get his message across through pop culture. But David Letterman, whose show Christie has frequented, never hesitated to pile on and slam Christie about “Bridgegate,” tossing him aside as soon as it was convenient. And when that happened, grassroots conservatives did not even care to try to rake Letterman over the coals for his slam like they would have had he attacked someone who stood in better graces with the movement.
To survive a potential GOP primary–if he even makes it there in light of his scandals–and what will be thrown at him in a potential general election from the left and the mainstream press if he were to get the nomination, Christie will need a conservative base that is a lot more fired up than it is about him now.