A Follow-Up on the Christie Thing...

In a previous diary entry, I posited the possibility of Chris Christie being the GOP nominee for president in 2016. That diary was based on a possibility, not a foregone conclusion. Signing onto Redstate to check the comments, I thought I made a mistake and was reading DailyKos. As expected, many of the comments could not avoid the references to his weight. That moronic line of attack is more suited to children…and Democrats. I should say first and foremost, if anyone has read any of my previous diary entries on Chris Christie, I have been rather principled in one thought: Chris Christie is good for New Jersey as a Republican, but may not necessarily be a national leader for the GOP. Were he to run against either Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or whoever the Democrats throw out there in 2016, however, my vote would go to Christie. If I were in an early primary state, I would at least listen to him rather than declaring him “DOA.” Even still, being in a late primary state, should there be opposition I would listen to what all the candidates say before making a decision instead of dismissing him out of hand and I would vote for the person who best represents my ideals. As a long-time diary writer here on this site, it should be obvious I am neither “Tea Party” nor “establishment.” As such, should the GOP nominee be Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul or Rick Perry, I would vote for and support them, unlike the sentiments expressed by some here.

Personally, it is way too early to declare a GOP 2016 presidential front runner. That is the role of DC political pundits who base their analysis on his 60% victory in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race against what can best be described as a Democratic sacrificial lamb. The best thing that happened to Christie was the death of Frank Lautenberg. Rest assured, had Corey Booker run against Christie in 2013 for Governor, this talk about Christie in 2016 would be moot. However, that underscores another fact. Democrats in New Jersey were reluctant to run against the man because even though the Democratic bench is deeper than the Republican bench, everyone realized their chances of beating Christie in a Democratic state would be difficult…at this time. This is true despite the inherent, built-in Democratic advantage in New Jersey. In short, the stars aligned for Christie in 2009 and they were better aligned in 2013. We do not know at this point if the stars will align in 2016.

It is fine and dandy if some people may be forced to hold their noses and vote for Christie. It is even greater that many have professed a protest “non-vote.” How that helps elect anyone other than a Democrat who will continue the policies of Barack Obama needs some explaining, but that is a whole other story. It is a free country and one can vote for whomever one wants, or not vote at all. However, a lot of those “protest votes” in Virginia helped defeat Ken Cuccinelli. There were other factors involved, but if the Libertarian candidate had performed as previous Libertarian candidates performed (2.2% of the vote versus 6.1% of the vote), we would be talking about Governor-elect Cuccinelli in a squeaker. Unfortunately, often our political system comes down to the lesser of two evils. Even more unfortunate is that voting for no evil may make one feel better personally, but it sure leads to a lot of hand-wringing over the Democrat occupying the White House.

The question arose whether a moderate Republican, as Christie is portrayed, can be elected? This is, in fact, the fear of Democrats which many here are simply validating. They (liberals) state that Christie is portraying himself as moderate so that voters in 2016 will say, “He isn’t that bad a Republican” and he will draw independent voters. To the conservative, that demonstrates a lack of principle and honesty. To others, he is seen as a street fighter and adept politician and little else. The answer to the question, however, is that the right moderate Republican can win. Whether Christie is that man remains to be seen.

New Jersey is not perfect and was even less so before Christie and it will not be perfect after 2017. But, there is not a single state that can claim the mantle of perfection. However, with Christie, the shenanigans in Trenton have largely abated. Someone commented on naming anything Christie has accomplished in New Jersey in his first four years. Let me name three big ones and some smaller ones. The last three budgets have been balanced. While it is true that this is constitutionally mandated, this was accomplished without the rancor and, at times, state government shutdown that was common before Christie. He has not raised the already high state income, business, or sales taxes. Some look at reforms of the state Earned Income Credit as being a tax increase while others look at it as reform of a welfare program. When Democrats passed a millionaire tax increase, Christie vetoed it and dared the legislature to override that veto. When Democrats proposed raising the state gasoline tax- one of the lowest in the country- Christie stood opposed and the measure was killed. While it is true that New Jersey has some of the highest property taxes in the country, increases have been been capped by Christie which slows their rate of increases and forces municipalities to do more with less.

Under Christie, jobs have been added to the private sector reversing a trend seen under previous Democratic governors. The main reason is the stability in the tax code. No longer are businesses wary of a corporate tax increase in order to balance the state budget. Admittedly, there are still improvements to be made in this area and in job creation in the state. New Jersey’s unemployment rate is still high compared to the national average while economic growth is about average. However, the bulk of that unemployment rate is attributable to losses of jobs in the public sector.

Which brings me to major point number three: government has gotten smaller under Christie. There are fewer state workers today than there were in 2001. How many other Governors can make that claim? Along those lines, he signed a public worker reform bill which he pushed that limits collective bargaining rights over benefits, increases the retirement age, increases employee contributions and suspends cost-of-living-adjustments. Public employees collecting two or three pensions is also athing of the past. Sounds sort of like what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin, without the Democratic Party’s drama.

There are other accomplishments that would normally be in line with conservatives. For example, he ended the publicly funded and massively expensive tunnel project between northern New Jersey and Manhattan. He withdrew from an interstate compact to limit greenhouse gases calling it a failure and expensive to New Jersey residents. Christie may talk that he believes in AGW, but his actions- which are more important than words- speak louder. Although he banned new coal plants, I think even conservatives can agree that coal is the dirtiest form of energy production, leaving aside the global warming debate. His commitment to increased renewable energy would fall under the “all of the above” mantra. And his reason for pulling out of the Democratic-negotiated compact? Market forces, not some imposed cap-and-trade system, was doing the job. Color me foolish, but that sounds rather conservative to me. And besides speaking the blunt truth, there is a good reason Christie captured the Hispanic and female vote and 21% of the black vote: his advancement of a cause near and dear to conservatives- school choice. Conservatives have been beating that drum for years now; unlike others, Christie got the message through. Whether he achieves the end game in this area remains to seen.

Someone mentioned that if a conservative agenda could be achieved in Wisconsin or Louisiana, it could be achieved in New Jersey. Of course, they left a very important fact out of that equation: both Wisconsin and Louisiana (why Louisiana was chosen befuddles me) have REPUBLICAN legislatures- both their lower and upper houses. New Jersey does not. Hence, one can say that Chris Christie- despite an adversarial legislature and a culture at odds with anything conservative- has achieved more than Bobby Jindal and/or Scott Walker. Your job is easier and your agenda more palatable if you have the legislature on your side.

What has Chris Christie fought for? He has fought for something we all are- taxpayers. Whether it was capping property tax increases, holding the line on income, sales and business taxes, thwarting a so-called “millionaire’s tax,” or beating back a gasoline tax increase, he has been on the side of and fighting for the taxpayers of New Jersey. By the way, state revenues have increased under Christie. This year’s budget is 6% higher than the one when he took office. Most of that is attributable to increased revenue and addressing something most other governors bury their head in the sand about- unfunded pension liabilities.

Chris Christie may not be the archetypal conservative that everyone will rally behind. But there are very few who would meet that criteria who have accomplished anything other than a 21-hour filibuster in the Senate. In the end, polls mean nothing especially this far out from 2016. But there is one fact and that is at this point in time, Christie would come the closest to beating Hillary Clinton should she run. When people talk of Christie’s electability outside New Jersey, they are ignorant of the fact that Ted Cruz is even less electable outside Texas, or Rand Paul outside Kentucky and the South, or Sarah Palin outside…well everywhere. Is Chris Christie the best the GOP can offer? Probably not. My personal favorite’s boat sailed in 2012 (Mitch Daniels). But given the current view by the electorate of Washington, it is hard to see anyone from Congress gaining national traction. That leaves a Republican governor and Ben Carson or someone else currently safely removed from the federal government. Let me reiterate: the electoral map favors the Democrats. If someone can realistically name a candidate who will play well in a general election in the likes of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania or even New Hampshire, please tell me. Only Scott Walker comes to mind (and possibly Marco Rubio). The GOP cannot rely solely on the South and a handful of low-electoral vote states out west. Florida’s demographics as well as those of Georgia are changing so that neither of those states may be “givens” in the future. In the end, you can pat yourself on the back and congratulate each other for fighting the good fight and all that. But, you will also likely be grousing about another 4-8 years of having a Democrat in the White House perpetuating the policies of Barack Obama.