Is Chris Christie a False Idol for Conservatives?

Republicans adore him. His YouTube soundbites are everywhere. But is he really the fiscal conservative he says he is?

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This week's New York magazine shines a light on Chris Christie's rock star appeal. In less than a year in office, the New Jersey governor has taken a sledgehammer to the state's budget while winning tax hike concessions from the state's Democratic-led legislature. At the same time, Christie's televised confrontations with the press, teachers unions and ornery constituents have become viral hits on YouTube. With some of his more popular videos garnering 750,000 views, the Christie camp knows exactly what it's doing. "Almost everywhere Christie goes, he is filmed by an aide whose job is to capture these 'moments,'" New York's Jason Zengerle reports. Is the Garden State governor worth all the hype?

  • He Appeals to the Center and Hard-Right, writes Zengerle:
Less than a year into his tenure, Christie is no longer just a popular governor; he has become a national Republican star. His focus on fiscal issues and his reluctance to wade into the culture wars—during his gubernatorial campaign, he declined Palin’s offer to stump for him—have endeared him to members of the GOP’s sane wing. “The breakthrough he’s scoring in New Jersey is hugely promising,” says David Frum, a conservative writer who fears that the Republican Party is being swallowed by the tea party. At the same time, Christie’s combativeness has made him a popular figure with the tea party in a way that someone like Indiana governor Mitch Daniels—who’s fought some of the same fiscal battles in his state but with the mien of an accountant—can only dream of. More than anything, Christie fills the longing, currently felt in all corners of the GOP (and beyond), for a stern taskmaster.
  • The YouTube Videos Are Great! cheers Right Scoop at the conservative blog Hot Air. He comments on a video of Christie recalling an interaction with the president of the New Jersey Teachers Union:

Now that is what I call backbone! Plain and simple. Please put that in a box and mail it to the Republicans in Congress, cause they’re gonna need it.
  • As Successful as Palin in His Messaging, writes Ben Smith at Politico:

For all the sophisticated seminars on the use of social media in politics, it's pretty clear that the two dominant social media politicians in the wake of the Obama campaign are Republicans: Sarah Palin and Chris Christie, whom Jason Zengerle profiles today, with an eye toward how self-conscious Christie's plays to YouTube have become.

Some of Christie’s budget fixes look a lot like tax hikes to the people on the receiving end of them. They include the working poor who will pay higher income taxes due to reductions in the state earned-income tax credit; homeowners who didn’t get their customary rebates on property taxes this year; transit riders who are paying substantially higher fares; and university students who must pay higher tuition. And although Christie promised in March to “not shove today’s problems under the rug only to be discovered again tomorrow,” his plan leaned heavily on the familiar Trenton budget trick of skipping a required payment to the state’s pension fund, which is already $48 billion underfunded.

What’s more, some of Christie’s spending reductions aren’t as clear-cut as they might seem. As Stateline reported last week, Christie’s budget assumes tens of millions of dollars in savings from privatization that has yet to occur.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.