Chris Christie, an Unlikely Rising Republican Star

Could "Gov. Wrecking Ball" take out frontrunners Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney in 2012?

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Chris Christie famously ran a terrible campaign, the highlight of which was Christie's demand last year that his opponent "man up and say I'm fat."  He was elected New Jersey governor by just four points. This year Christie proudly recounted how Democrats in New Jersey said he was like "Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, all those great leaders of the past," and he yelled at a voter for "dividing the country" because he asked a critical question of Meg Whitman. But it's exactly that politically risky combativeness that causing Christie's star to swiftly rise within the Republican ranks.

Christie raised $9 million for Republican candidates this year; 11 of the 16 candidates Christie campaigned for won. The governor's aggressive cuts in spending and refusal to compromise with teacher's unions has won him praise from conservatives, Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence writes. In 2012, he'll have spent one more year in office than Sarah Palin had when she was tapped for the Republican ticket. Christie says he's too outspoken to be VP. "Said the man nicknamed Gov. Wrecking Ball, 'I am who I am.' It's an open question how that will play outside the northeast and Midwest, and over time," Lawrence writes. "Lucky for him, he's 48 and not term-limited. The 2013 gubernatorial election will be a test of how well he wears."

  • His Big Mouth Gives Him a Better Chance Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight. Silver's models show controversial frontrunners like Sarah Palin have a far better shot at the 2012 presidential nomination than nice guys like Tim Pawlenty and John Thune. "Some seem to think it an asset that they are bland and unobjectionable. In a primary election that isn’t an asset, but a liability. A primary election isn’t a reality show in which candidates are eliminated one at a time for failing some challenge. Instead, voters pick the one candidate whom they most like, rather than the one they most dislike; a candidate who has strong favorables and strong unfavorables is going to be more people’s first choice than one whom everyone feels indifferent about. Someone with a more distinct and provocative brand — like Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey or Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — might stand a better chance in an underdog role, although neither is likely to run for president in 2012."
  • Not Gonna Happen Outside the Beltway's James Joyner writes. "Looking at the anecdotal evidence, I can only think of two nominees in my lifetime who weren’t leading contenders well ahead of the race:  Jimmy Carter and Michael Dukakis. ... The Republicans have  nominated an early frontrunner every quadrennial in the primary era: McCain, Bush, Bush, Dole, Bush, Bush, Reagan, Reagan, Ford, Nixon, Nixon, Goldwater, Nixon, Eisenhower, Eisenhower.  Unlike the Democrats, who parcel out votes proportionally (moreso since 1984 than previously) the GOP has a winner-take-all system.  This makes it extremely hard for someone who isn’t an early favorite to gain steam over a long race.  If you don’t win at least one primary in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, you’re toast."
  • But Christie's Positioning Himself Nicely for VP, Mitchell Blumenthal writes at Capital New York. "What Christie is not saying—what he could never say, without wrecking his skillfully wrought image as a straight-talker whose only interest is in fixing his deeply distressed home state—is that he is working like hell to become the favorite, obvious, choice for vice president in 2012. Between the narrative he has constructed at home as the fearless enemy of budget-wrecking special interests, and the chits he has been busy racking up by raising money for Republican candidates from one end of the country to the other, he is putting himself in Position A to be recruited as a running mate."
  • He'd Make a Great Attack Dog, Dave Weigel writes at Slate. Christie might say he's too loudmouthed to be vice-president, but that's actually a key qualification. "The successful vice presidential choice is someone who complements his running mate but goes further than he'd (she'd) go in attacking the opposition. People forget what an attack dog the now-saintly Al Gore was on the trail in 1992 and 1996, or how good Dan Quayle got at that role by 1992. (Palin was not an effective running mate, but she pushed the ball forward on personal and character attacks against Barack Obama; as plenty of people pointed out, her rough rallies, with their crowds who happily used Barack Obama's last name and griped about communism, were proto-Tea Parties.)"
  • A New Jersey Republican Is Still Too Liberal, Dan Riehl writes at Riehl World View. "Ultimately, Christie's track record on government, taxes, culture and the environment puts him slightly to the Left of Rudy Giuliani. And I could have lived with Rudy in 2008. Some of the same people with their shorts in a wad over any criticism of Christie in terms of his framing the national political discourse, now, just got done throwing as many Christie's out of Washington as they could. Christie is as good as one can get for New Jersey. If his defenders in this sense want 50 states just like New Jersey when it comes to taxes and government over reach, then they are just as wrong in their vision for a broader America, as is Christie in many ways. To the extent Christie can bring improvement in New Jersey, good for him. However, were he to get to Washington, all he would accomplish is to take America further Left."
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