“Mean? I’m not mean. I’m HUNGRY!”
If you play fantasy football, you have to be cautious of what I call “The Shiny Toy Theory.” Show a baby a shiny toy and they become hypnotized by the sight of it. In fantasy football, there are players that get hot for a week or two and put up impressive numbers. Everyone wants to pick them up because they are pretty and shiny.
Most of these players aren’t built to last. They are teasers, not pleasers. Showers, not growers.
Enter Chris Christie. This week’s Designated Savior of the Republican Party and one of the media’s favorite shiny toy.
The Republican bench of potential candidates for 2016 is long, eager and many are rabid red-meat right-wingers whom refuse to compromise, negotiate or acknowledge political realities. This plays well with the base of the party. It scares the hell out of the general electorate in a presidential election.
Christie is one of those guys who went from obscurity to popularity and never stopped at humility. He should enjoy his time riding high in the news cycle. It won’t last because it never does. Another shinier and prettier toy will come along and the media and the public will trot along behind it like puppies.
In politics destiny is occasionally confused with inevitably. New Jersey has been the nexus of this phenomenon of late when two separate, but important events occurred. Cory Booker went from the ambitious and nationally popular mayor of Newark to the first African-American to win a Senate seat in a state election since another ambitious African-American named Barack Obama did the same in 2006. We all know where his ambitions took him and have no doubt Booker will eventually try to follow Obama’s career arc.
“Cory, just because I made you ride in the back of my helicopter is no reason to get mad.”
But that’s further in the future. Here and now the other notable event was the Garden State’s incumbent governor, Chris Christie, easily won reelection in a race he was supposed to win in a Democratic state that admires his rough-around-the-edges Republicanism. What made the victory notable to the self-styled seers and wise men sifting the tea leaves for the 2016 presidential race is how the governor cobbled together enough votes from traditionally Democratic supporters for a fawning national media to dub Christie the man to rescue a party that seems to have forgotten how to win national elections.
It’s too early to tell, but he appears to have the makings of such a politician. It isn’t just that his four-year record of incumbency netted him a reelection margin of 60.4 percent compared to just 38.1 percent for his Democratic opponent, although that suggests that he is capable of generating considerable political force. More significant is his performance among particular voter categories. Women gave him a 15 percentage-point advantage over his female rival. People who identified themselves as moderates gave him a 21-point advantage. Independent voters turned to him by a 31-point margin. Even 30 percent of self-described liberals backed him. Meanwhile, he took half of the Hispanic vote and more than 20 percent of the African-American vote.
If Christie could be elected by the slobbering mainstream media, he’d be the next POTUS. Unfortunately for him, he’s gonna have to go stand in some Iowa cornfield in about two years and try to explain to some skeptical farmer chewing tobacco and spitting it out why he should support him over a true believer like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul.
Without a doubt it was a big win for the big man, but Chrstie’s triumph looks even more impressive in comparison to Tea Party poster boy and right-wing radical Ken Cuccinelli’s humbling defeat in Virginia to Terry McAuliffe, a Bill Clinton insider.
Christie’s appeal lies in when compared to the right-wing extremism of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and the “oh no, not another one” stink all over Jeb Bush, he benefits by being the least terrible choice. For the GOP insiders, while they may grumble over Christie literally embracing President Obama, they can’t deny his popularity and the possibility his gruff, take-no-stuff persona may play well nationally.
What won’t play well is Christie’s imperious and often rude attacks on teachers, labor unions, journalists and other Republicans who cross him. The GOP base won’t care about dissing those first three groups, but if Christie hopes to win the nomination he can’t treat the rest of the Republican field like bleeping idiots even if they are bleeping idiots.
I’m trying to imagine Christie in a debate with Paul, Cruz, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and whomever shows up all slicing and dicing into him and getting redder and madder as he struggles to hold his volcanic anger in check. I don’t think he can for an entire campaign without at least one major eruption of Mt. Chris Christie.
Americans like tough guys, but they don’t like mean guys and Christie can be very mean. That’s a liability and he’ll have to learn how to temper his noted temper.
Christie is not a secret liberal fantasy. He’s a solidly mainstream Republican who has some moderate positions because he’s a governor in a pretty blue/Democratic state. That will serve Christie well in a general election, but can he even get out of the Republican primaries when everyone from Cruz to Paul to Marco Rubio and the rest are going to be aiming for that target on his double-wide butt?
It’s not a lock Christie even gets the nomination despite the fact many of the traditional Republicans will hold their nose and support him despite not being ideologically “pure.”
Christie would be a moderate but only more moderate in comparison than Cruz, Paul or Rubio (but not that much more). Christie’s lap-band surgery isn’t about slimming down but to take off the table the lingering question of whether Americans wants an obese president, but until the pounds melt away, Christie will still offer plenty of room for his admirers and critics to ride his butt all the way to 2016.
Nice podium, Barack. Mind if I keep it?