Republican Governors Want Christie to Remain Chair of the RGA

Christie kept a low profile in Washington at the governors’ meetings, but he’s still playing a leading role.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks to the media after attending a hearing on the drilling moratorium in July 2010 in New Orleans.
National Journal
Karyn Bruggeman
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Karyn Bruggeman
Feb. 24, 2014, 1:07 p.m.

New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie kept a low pro­file dur­ing his week­end in Wash­ing­ton at the na­tion­al gov­ernors’ an­nu­al winter meet­ing, but he re­ceived an im­port­ant en­dorse­ment of his chair­man­ship of the Re­pub­lic­an Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation.

Asked wheth­er Christie’s con­tro­ver­sies back home had be­come an un­ne­ces­sary dis­trac­tion for the RGA, Louisi­ana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal said he should re­main in charge.

“Yes, I think he can be and has been an ef­fect­ive lead­er of RGA. I think he should re­main. The real­ity is Chris, he has taken re­spons­ib­il­ity; he said he will co­oper­ate with all of the in­vest­ig­a­tions. I don’t know what more we can ask him to do bey­ond that so, yes, he can be ef­fect­ive,” Jin­dal said. He em­phas­ized that the “RGA is more im­port­ant than just any one gov­ernor. It’s not about the chair­man; it wasn’t about the chair­man when I was chair­man last year. It’s not about the chair­man this year.”

Jin­dal chaired the Re­pub­lic­an Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation in 2013, and Christie suc­ceeded him this year. Both are con­sidered po­ten­tial pres­id­en­tial con­tenders in 2016.

Jin­dal was joined at the RGA press con­fer­ence by fel­low Re­pub­lic­an Govs. Nikki Haley of South Car­o­lina, Bill Haslam of Ten­ness­ee, and Rick Perry of Texas. Haley and Haslam each said they would wel­come a vis­it from Christie in their states as they seek reelec­tion this year. Haley de­scribed Christie as “my friend,” and said “I don’t think we have any dates in the works yet, but I would ex­pect it at some point.”

“If Chris came down we would love to have him,” said Haslam.

Jin­dal also de­flec­ted ques­tions about his own pres­id­en­tial am­bi­tions and em­phas­ized that the fo­cus at this point should be on House and Sen­ate races and the 36 gubernat­ori­al con­tests at hand in 2014. “My hon­est an­swer is, I don’t know what I’m go­ing to be do­ing in 2016,” Jin­dal said.

The event served as an op­por­tun­ity for Re­pub­lic­ans to dir­ectly re­spond to com­ments made by Pres­id­ent Obama at a Demo­crat­ic Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation fun­draiser on Thursday, when Obama said GOP gov­ernors are “pur­su­ing the same top-down, failed eco­nom­ic policies that don’t help Amer­ic­ans get ahead,” and “they’re pay­ing for it by cut­ting in­vest­ments in the middle class.” The com­ments set the stage for vari­ous par­tis­an un­der­tones that per­meated the en­tire week­end’s activ­it­ies.

After a bi­par­tis­an event at the White House on Monday, Jin­dal went on the at­tack against the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. He ac­cused the pres­id­ent of pro­mot­ing a “min­im­um-wage eco­nomy” and said the White House is “wav­ing the white flag of sur­render when it comes to growth and op­por­tun­ity.” He re­peatedly ref­er­enced his Na­tion­al Re­view op-ed pub­lished earli­er that day call­ing on the pres­id­ent to use ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions to en­act a range of re­forms viewed fa­vor­ably by Re­pub­lic­ans.

Ul­ti­mately, Jin­dal said the morn­ing meet­ing at the White House was “re­spect­ful.”

“Nobody was ugly to each oth­er,” he said, but noted the talks were marked by “ser­i­ous sub­stant­ive dis­agree­ments” on policy is­sues, spe­cific­ally on ap­prov­al of the Key­stone XL pipeline, im­ple­ment­a­tion of the Af­ford­able Care Act, edu­ca­tion policy at the state level, and an in­crease in the fed­er­al min­im­um wage.

Haley, however, claimed the tone “com­pletely changed” to­ward the end of the meet­ing when Obama brought up newly pro­posed cuts to the de­fense budget, which will af­fect the Na­tion­al Guard.

“It wasn’t just a change in tone to Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors — you saw it to all gov­ernors,” Haley said. “It chilled the room.”

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