Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning, NBC’s Chuck Todd reported that New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie refused to campaign for Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia Republican who narrowly lost his own governor’s race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe. “They begged Christie, and you can make an argument,” Todd said on Morning Joe. “That to bring a Chris Christie to Northern Virginia might have helped. But Chris Christie is worried about his own brand.”
Part of Christie’s brand problem, though, is his behavior during the closing days of last year’s presidential campaign. After running one of the most divisive administrations and re-election campaigns in recent memory — in the wake of Hurricane Sandy — Barack Obama went to New Jersey seeking bipartisan credibility. And in the eyes of many, Christie went above and beyond to give it to him.
No one would have faulted Christie for putting politics aside to work with the president in the best interest of his state, especially after a devastating hurricane. But Christie appeared to go out of his way to aid and abet the president with photo-ops and praise that bordered on the melodramatic.
It certainly didn’t help that all of this occurred just a few weeks after Christie’s keynote address at Romney’s convention, where the New Jersey governor seemed a lot more interested in helping himself and did next to nothing to make the case for our nominee.
In the closing days of yesterday’s off-year election, Christie was coasting to easy re-election by margins in the twenties, and he is a mere two states away from Virginia. It would have cost Christie nothing more than six hours to do a Cuccinelli rally. But still he refused.
Christie’s current brand might endear him to the Morning Joe bubble-boys, but they will turn on him, just as they did Romney, the moment he is a threat to a Democrat’s quest for the Oval Office. In a presidential campaign, in both the primary and general elections, Christie needs the base to stand in long lines for him.
That is the brand Christie needs to worry about.
Had Christie taken just a half-day to stump for Cuccinelli, not only would that have helped wash the Sandy stain away; it might have actually made him a hero to the base for both defying the Morning Joe crowd and helping to drag Cuccinelli over the finish line.
Besides the obvious, 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.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC