Washington Insiders Say Chris Christie Won 2013

The Republican governor with a can-do attitude vastly outdid this year’s top public figures.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie arrives to speak at his election night event in Asbury Park, N.J., after winning a second term on Nov. 3.
National Journal
Marina Koren
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Marina Koren
Dec. 13, 2013, 3:59 a.m.

After a whirl­wind year of crip­pling par­tis­an­ship, bungled policy rol­louts, and a gov­ern­ment shut­down, most pub­lic fig­ures are leav­ing this year with quite a few more chips to their im­age than they had in Janu­ary. Ex­cept maybe one.

New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie — a grow­ing puzzle for Demo­crats and con­tinu­ing head­ache for his fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans — emerged as the win­ner of 2013 on the polit­ic­al stage, ac­cord­ing to a Na­tion­al Journ­al Polit­ic­al In­siders poll.

The law­maker’s good year is something in­siders, Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an in­flu­en­cers on the Hill, can agree on. Sixty per­cent of Demo­crats said Christie had the best 2013 of polit­ic­al fig­ures, while 71 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans said the same. The run­ners-up were barely any com­pet­i­tion, with former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton scor­ing 24 per­cent from Demo­crats and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pulling a mere 11 per­cent from GOP in­siders.

“Nobody else came out of 2013 look­ing good, let alone bet­ter,” says one Re­pub­lic­an in­sider.

Christie began the year with stel­lar ap­prov­al rat­ings, thanks to his hand­ling of the af­ter­math of Hur­ricane Sandy. A Janu­ary Time cov­er bear­ing his no-non­sense vis­age pro­claimed the gov­ernor as simply “The boss.” By sum­mer­time, Christie had signed a bi­par­tis­an state budget with min­im­al fuss while still strik­ing down eight Demo­crat­ic bills.

In ar­gu­ably the most sig­ni­fic­ant year in gay-rights his­tory, Christie out­lawed gay-con­ver­sion ther­apy for chil­dren in New Jer­sey in Au­gust, and didn’t fight a court rul­ing that leg­al­ized same-sex mar­riage in the state in Oc­to­ber. He slammed the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Con­gress for “mon­key­ing around” dur­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down, dis­tan­cing him­self from the grid­lock that burned just about every­one in Wash­ing­ton. He eas­ily scored a land­slide win for a second term the fol­low­ing month, and now leads nearly every poll for Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates in 2016.

Christie made it through 2013 largely un­scathed. No scan­dals, no em­bar­rass­ments or gaffes. He beat Demo­crats de­cis­ively and worked with them at the same time. Sure, con­ser­vat­ive groups snubbed him, primar­ily for his loud cri­ti­cism of House Speak­er John Boehner for post-Sandy aid and of the Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ation for its ad men­tion­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s chil­dren. But “don’t be stu­pid,” be­cause Christie couldn’t care less. “He’s the man to beat in the GOP,” says one In­sider.

Christie’s high pro­file makes him a con­veni­ent tar­get for the tea party in 2014, which will likely paint him as too mod­er­ate for the Re­pub­lic­an primary. Demo­crats, on the oth­er hand, will point to his ul­tra-con­ser­vat­ive side. To­geth­er, these ef­forts could pull Christie, per­haps even the en­tire Re­pub­lic­an Party, closer to the cen­ter — right where voters may want a pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate in 2016.

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