Late last month, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli suggested that Governor Chris Christie was doing the GOP a disservice by remaining at the head of the Republican Governors Association. This week, the shunning of Christie by Texas’ past and future governors proves his strength as leader is greatly diminished.
Christie visited Texas yesterday for a series of private meetings with donors and potential allies of the Republican Party. As head of the RGA, Christie is responsible for fundraising and advocacy, helping more Republican governors get and stay elected. This week, however, the elected Republican governor and the Republican trying to get elected governor in Texas both went out of their way to avoid a photo-op with Christie. Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has run an issues-based campaign, actively avoiding any involvement in the imploding, scandal-plagued Democratic candidacy of Wendy Davis, conveniently had an event in Houston he could not turn down, thus avoiding Christie in Fort Worth. Governor Rick Perry was elsewhere in the state, as well, though the difficult history between the two governors suggests Perry had a more personal reason for avoiding Christie. Christie’s trip afforded no publicity and seemingly did little to help Abbott get elected.
What the trip did do for the Republican Party is generate a new series of headlines about Republicans distancing themselves from Christie to avoid being marred by the shadow of the George Washington Bridge scandal. Christie’s office has been subpoenaed by the federal government and by the New Jersey legislature’s investigative committee on the matter and is currently under investigation, both for the bridge scandal and misuse of Hurricane Sandy funds. The headlines write themselves: “Top TX GOP Leaders Give Christie a Cold Welcome,” “Texas GOP Candidate Keeping Distance from Christie,” “Texas Democrats Tie Christie Visit to Dallas, Criticism of Perry, Abbott,” and “Scandal-Plagued Chris Christie Arrives in Dallas as Greg Abbott Flees.”
Christie has become both king and pariah in his own party, an unsustainable dynamic that only feeds narratives of infighting and disorganization within the GOP. Nothing good has come out of his trip to Texas, and as the second major voyage since BridgeGate broke, the pattern is not looking good. On his trip to Florida last month, Governor Rick Scott ensured that all events were closed to the press, and he made sure no pictures of him with Governor Christie surfaced from them. The message Republican governors–with some notable exceptions, like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker–are sending about Christie is that they want nothing to do with him while they are trying to get elected.
That is a dangerous road for the Republican Party to take–and one Cuccinelli predicted when calling for Christie to resign. Cuccinelli predicted that Christie’s presence at any campaign event for any candidate would “clog up the coverage,” making the story about BridgeGate and not whatever candidate Christie was trying to get elected. So far, there is no evidence that Christie can run the organization and raise money without the candidates involved being somehow implicated in the culture of corruption Christie has grown to represent, thanks to exhaustive efforts from MSNBC and the far left to paint Christie as–well, as every Democratic politician in New Jersey.
As Cuccinelli suggested, whether Christie is innocent of what he is accused of or not has little bearing on his effectiveness as leader of the Republican Governors Association. But the more Christie works in the capacity, the more his shortcomings are becoming obvious–and the more fodder he gives Democrats to attack Republican candidates who would otherwise be bolstered by an effective RGA chair. And here lies the key to why Republicans calling for his resignation have a point: this is not about a far-off scandal, but about not meeting expectations on the job. No regular American losing that much effectiveness at his job–in this economy–would last as long as Christie has as RGA chair.