The Christie conundrum

Allahpundit at Hot Air put together a nice collection of quotes about New Jersey governor Chris Christie as he cruises to an easy re-election win.  No, that’s not quite right.  He’s driving a turbo-powered steamroller to victory, and he’s rolling so fast he’ll have to pop a drag-racer parachute to slow down after he crosses the finish line.  He’s going to win by so much that his margin of victory will become part of political history.

This despite a term as Governor that has not, to put it politely, been an unalloyed success, combined with outright sizzling hatred from his political adversaries on the Left within the state.  On the other hand, he’s made big gains with African-American voters, through a combination of retail politics (working with community leaders, meeting with people in person), and policies tailored to appeal to the black community without pandering to them.  He gets a lot of credit, a lot of respect, for being pugnacious and standing on principle.

Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller wonders if this will make Chris Christie into “the bizarro Bill Clinton,” a moderate Republican presidential candidate who can succeed in a political landscape slanted mightily to the Left, much as “moderate Democrat” Clinton prevailed at the end of the Age of Reagan.  Maybe, although it’s not as if Republicans haven’t been pushing moderate candidates onto the stage during the last couple of elections, only to see them instantly transformed into fire-breathing right-wing madmen by the Democrat-media complex.  

Clinton wasn’t all that moderate – a lot of his record for “moderation” comes from compromises the Republican Congress forced him into, kicking and screaming – but he was able to run that way because the media helped him, to a degree that would only be exceeded by their breathless love affair with Barack Obama years later.  No Republican is ever going to get that kind of help – just ask the media’s all-time favorite Repub, John “Straight Talk Express” McCain.  You’ll be amazed how quickly all of Christie’s schmoozing with Obama suddenly doesn’t count for beans.

He’s done plenty of things I strongly disapprove of, but Christie can be a very effective advocate for conservative philosophy and principles when he wants to be.  If he puts that hard-charging reputation to work in service of conservatism, he might be able to win back a few of the Republican base voters he’s alienated.  If nothing else, conservatives might not be eager to beat up a candidate with a good shot at the White House over four-year-old grudges, especially if he puts a little effort into mending fences with them.  A grand-slam comeback speech at CPAC might be a good start.  

Much of his appeal would depend on the political landscape in 2016, who runs against him, how well he can establish connections with Republican and conservative power players, and so forth.  A national race isn’t like a state race.  In 2012, we saw a governor with an incredible record of success, Rick Perry, crash and burn.  Maybe a governor with a more dubious record, but phenomenal skill at poaching votes from across the aisle, will fare differently in the next race… or maybe the search for the next Great Moderate Hope will fail yet again.  Meanwhile, every Republican candidate would do well to study the techniques Chris Christie is using to belt his re-election baseball over the fences.