Chris Christie’s Enormous Victory Heralds Serious Presidential Credentials
Make no mistake about this: Chris Christie, Republican Governor of the Garden State, is running for president. His recent rousing success in this bluest of blue states among women, blacks, Hispanics and even moderate-to-conservative Democrats has made a strong case that he may be the only shot a GOP national ticket has of making a dent in what will likely be another beating come November, 2016.
Christie’s election night victory speech, which I watched on a projector screen in the private campaign suite of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, was as much a clarion call for his inevitable run for the White House as it was a warning to those entrenched fellow Republicans who have made mincemeat of their opposition to Democratic rule in the Senate and the Oval Office in Washington.
“Now listen, I know that if we can do this in Trenton, N.J.,” Christie said with a purpose, “maybe the folks in Washington, D.C. should tune into their TVs right now…” The governor, an imposing heft of a beast, who breathes from the mouth as if trapped in an anti-gravity chamber, hesitated for just the right amount of time to let this sledgehammer analogy sink in, then, looking straight into the camera—something I have not seen a single candidate do in this setting—concluded in an almost ‘30s gangster style; “…see how it’s done.”
The crowd at the Astorino camp cheered. Their candidate has more or less competed on the same plane as Christie in the second richest county in the United States for the past four years. Westchester, like Jersey, is mostly made up of Democrats. Both men took on unions and government agencies in an uphill battle to try and lower taxes. The results vary for both. I live in Jersey and can tell you Christie’s bluster has done nothing to lower mine. In fact, taxes at the Clemens Estate have risen considerably under this so-called conservative, but that is a bitch for another time.
Moments after Christie’s stare-down moment, an ipso facto launching of a pre-campaign campaign for president of the United States in 2016, my friend announced to his staff, family and friends that his opponent, Democrat Noam Bramson, had conceded. Soon it was Bramson dominating the suite’s wall-screen giving a very different speech; jeered by some, but mostly met with silence. I knew nothing of Bramson or the campaign he ran, but it was easy to see why he wasn’t a match for my longtime friend, who is as polished as they come.
Funnily enough, Astorino was called “the skinny Christie” for a while. So it made perfect sense both would be claiming victory again on the same night for the second time in four years. However, while many in the Republican Party have been more than hinting that the second term County Executive take a shot at the governorship of New York, there is little question Christie will not be serving out this term as NJ governor. He is running for president.
Watching a rebroadcast of his speech around 2 a.m., dogged by a serviceable amount of gin, it was easy to deduce his high-minded lecturing about working across the aisle and chiding fellow Republicans, specifically the Washington crowd that has caused self-inflicted wounds in a battle against what they perceive are the evils of big government. “We don’t just show up in the places where we’re comfortable,” Christie tutored. “We show up in the places we’re uncomfortable.” Christie spent the rest of the speech driving home the concept of embracing government and not infusing it with ham-fisted inertia for the sake of ideological fisticuffs. The idea is to govern, of course, but first the idea is to win.
And The Fat Man has the formula, at least in Jersey.
While the national numbers look so abysmal it might take four generations for a Republican to once again gain access to the executive branch of the federal government, the state level figures for Christie are staggering.
Within the unfathomable 60 percent of the vote he carried, which is a feat for either Democrat or Republican around here, Christie dominated the independent vote to the tune of 66 percent, an absolute must for any national candidate in a growing anti-party affiliation environment. To the GOP point, his 51 percent of Hispanics and 57 percent of women are difference makers, not to mention three out of four working-class white voters; the famed “Reagan Democrats” needed for the party to have any shot in 2016.
Now, Christie is a gaff machine. He’ll make Mitt Romney’s celebrated 2012 foot-in-mouth review look tame. He has the ethnic stigma of the Northeast, deadly in a Republican primary, where Romney turned from vacillating moderate to a gun-toting Jesus Freak in two months. Here, wise-crackin’ is good press. In Iowa, Christie’s act might look as if he is a dockworker on amphetamines, or worse, some kind of Sopranos tribute.
And there is also this TEA Party thing, which Christie is likely not going to kowtow to under any circumstances and will have to strain not to turn pikers like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul into chum at the first turn. Will that kind of fight alienate the nuts; a key GOP demographic these days.
And it should be noted, the same exit polls that make him look like Boss Tweed, also favor his inevitable opponent, Hillary Clinton, by four points.
No matter; Christie put his hat in the national ring with the subtlety of a bull elephant in heat Tuesday. He looks to be ready to do what he knew he would do by all-but passing up any chance of being sunk in the doomed 2012 Romney run; work with head winds.
So let it be known that on November 5, 2013, the day he was re-elected as governor of NJ in a landslide, Chris Christie is running for president.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus” and “Y”.