I’m not sure what to make of Chris Christie. Sometimes I think he’s just banking his New Jersey political capital to remain secure as governor, build up a gubernatorial legacy, be a kingmaker when he finally leaves the office, etc.
Other times I wonder if he’s trying to set himself up for 2016, perhaps as a transitional figure that will move the GOP further to the Left, in pursuit of that leftward-drifting Overton Window.
And then I look at some of the tougher performances he’s given in the past, and muse that maybe he’s playing a really long game with Democrats and the media, aggressively disarming some of the arguments that would be used against him by the Left after deciding, at some point (arguably before the conventions) that 2012 probably wasn’t going the Republicans’ way. He doesn’t seem like the type to be caught flabbergasted like John McCain was, after the “Straight Talk Express” tumbled into a ditch and his media pals deserted him. Christie seems more like the type who would tuck this sort of photo into a file labeled “Save until media liberals try to paint me as an out-of-touch right-wing extremist in four years.”
From the standpoint of ideology, he’s as much a product of his environment as any other northeastern Republican, and they haven’t been racking up an impressive record of national victories lately. But from the standpoint of hardball retail politics, Christie knows the game, and plays to win.