In a sense the 2016 campaign started today. Not in any technical sense, not monetarily or in terms of staff but in the more important sense of events which prepare the battlespace for years to come.
Allahpundit says the reaction today was a political Rorschach
test. He’s right about that. People who like
Christie are more inclined to believe him than those who don’t like him. That’s how these scandals go. People on the left refuse to believe Obama knew about the IRS scandal or that Holder knew about Fast and Furious. People on the right see that as unlikely. We disagree and we move on to the next disagreement.
But because this is Christie
and because he’s the leading Republican in 2016 polls the bridge scandal could become something more like a
picture of Dorian Gray than a Rorschach test. From this point on, every sin real and imagined
is going to be finger painted onto the existing template created by this incident. Anything Christie has ever said that was less than charitable
to an opponents is now part of a pattern. The caricature
will get uglier and uglier as various outlets compete to add to it.
This is exactly what Obama’s people did to Romney using a story
about him forcing a guy to cut his hair in school, followed by the one
about him killing a woman with cancer, then tying a dog to the roof, or putting women in binders, or never paying taxes, etc. The truth of any of
the specific claims didn’t matter much. What mattered was that the ugly caricature obscured the real man.
It worked obviously. They convinced low-info voters that Romney
was rich, weird and couldn’t possible care about their problems. People routinely said Romney would be a better manager, something they thought the economy needed, but they liked Obama better. That’s what mattered most.
This gets us to a central truth about the progressive left. All the wonks and proud claims to being the party of
data and pragmatic policy become window dressing in election years. What the political guys know is that elections
turn on personality. That’s a problem for them in 2016 because Christie has a big,
winning personality and, let’s face it, Hillary Clinton just does not. In order to win in 2016 the left needs to turn Christie’s strength into a weakness. As of today, they have a response, not to Christie’s policies but to his personality.
There is a difference though. Romney, unfortunately, played an unwitting part in his own demise. He was reluctant to talk about himself in a positive light and seemingly couldn’t get exercised about some of the truly ugly and unfair attacks on him. He was a bit too long-suffering for his own good.
Chris Christie is not that guy. One could see even today that this was not someone who was willing to let other people define him. The press brought out the “bully” jacket and tried to squeeze him into it and he firmly refused to try it on saying that is not and has not been his personality.
Overall, Christie looked pretty good up there. He sounded sincere and did not offer any excuses other than “I didn’t know.” He even apologized to the media for saying something he now admits was not true. As a matter of political comparison, Christie probably answered more tough questions in one day than Obama has in several months.
That’s the good news for Christie and his supporters. The bad news is that even if Christie is telling the truth left-leaning folks in the media (not to mention
Hillary Clinton’s political operatives) will make sure this does not go away. They’ll be busy painting their version of Chris Christie from this day forward.