The Contrarian: With Friends Like These…

Governor Chris Christie’s official endorsement of GOP candidate Mitt Romney evokes the image of a precocious schoolboy responding to the newly enacted anti-bullying legislation in NJ:

Standing up for one of his shier classmates with a grandiose display of support, the student defends the other for those aspects of their character that incited negativity (“He’s not a kiss-ass; he just knows how to work the grown-ups…”) and chides the others for acting in such a manner unbecoming (“Bullying is against the rules now and it’s just dumb; it’s not like you have a good reason to tease him except to feel better about yourself…”).

Most importantly (and most riskily), he makes an argument for why his comrade is, in fact, a pinnacle example of the kind of person they want on their side as a class leader and “super-buddy”: Besides having awesome toys, he has great ideas for keeping the lower grades in line without being so mean that they tattle, playing pranks on the upper grades so they don’t know what hit them, and getting back at the new kid that moved from another state and owned the school in the matter of a week.

As a result, the newly anointed might find courage in the endorsement of a well-liked friend and the sense of embitterment it causes in the second-in-commands who clamored for his favor, but moving forward, it is uncertain to his peers, and to himself, whether or not the kid has the clout to navigate the politics, show the goods what he is purported to possess and become the class star. Especially since his mentor promised to be there, having his back, every step of the way.

Will an endorsement be enough to gain the necessary support needed to emerge as the leader of a group? And further, will it be enough to bring to play the competency and values, largely unconfirmed, that caused the endorsement in the first place?

The highly coveted endorsement from Governor Christie, who has solid backing from Republicans in the Northeast and “establishment types” nationwide, is undoubtedly a game changer for GOP hopefuls in the race for the Republican candidacy in the 2012 Presidential election, whose main goal is to get President Barack Obama out of the White House and return to their agenda. A favorite of the GOP for the nomination to begin with, Christie stands on a foundation of respect and trust that would greatly benefit the candidate who won his favor, notwithstanding his statement that his endorsement was not simply a sentiment but would entail his continued involvement in support of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who, like the rest of the candidates, has some way to go before the party candidates are solidified and the real game begins.

The endorsement was announced last Tuesday at 3 p.m., hours before the seventh Republican debate at Dartmouth College, and exactly one week after he announced (again) that we would not seek the GOP nomination for candidacy in the 2012 election. Which is impeccable timing, for the window for influence is small, and couldn’t have come for Romney, who is straddling the positions of the current front-runner for the nomination and the target for much dissenting criticism regarding his values and his ability to beat the Democrats.

The manner in which Christie made his case is similar to my runaway metaphor with the school children, acknowledging and defending the points of contention that the other candidates and Republican voters have taken issue with and could continue to take issue with as the fight for the nomination continues. These criticisms range from issue taken with display of undesirable alignments with the left, such as support of the 2008 bank bailouts backed by Obama, to issue taken with his values as they relate to the core of the GOP establishment, such as the fact that he is of Mormon faith and “not a true Christian,“ according to Rick Perry, Romney’s main rival.

Christie jumped to the defense on the latter issue, claiming that that sort of divisiveness does not have a place in this debate, a sentiment that Romney had the confidence to echo in that night’s debate. Further, months before his formal endorsement, Christie applauded Romney for his defense of his Massachusetts health care law, in spite of his opposition to a national application of similar legislation, saying, “That type of candor is what Americans expect from a serious Presidential candidate today.”

The point that what is more important than the GOP agreeing with everything the potential nominee stands is the ability for the candidate to win against Barack Obama was the point Christie emphasized the most, claiming Romney, will his multi-dimensional experience in the public and private sectors, would appeal to moderates and independents as well as the party itself. Which makes sense, but if he can win, can he work?

With Christie in the audience of the debate the night of the endorsement, PBS host Charlie Rose, one of the debate moderators, asked whom Romney would appoint to the Federal Reserve.

Romney: “I’m not sure I’m the nominee yet.”

Rose: “Nor is anyone else.”

To infinity and beyond, kiddo.