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.
What We're Following See More »
"The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed sweeping bipartisan opioid legislation, concluding the chamber’s two-week voteathon on dozens of bills to address the drug abuse epidemic. The measure combines more than 50 bills approved individually by the House focusing on expanding access to treatment, encouraging the development of alternative pain treatments and curbing the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S. It was passed 396-14, with 13 Republicans and one Democrat voting against the package."
In a letter to Congress on Friday, President Trump wrote that he's continuing the national emergency status with respect to North Korea, citing the country's “provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions," which "continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the United States. In a series of tweets following his meeting with Kim Jong-un, Trump said Americans could sleep well at night because North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat.
"The U.S. Navy is preparing plans to construct sprawling detention centers for tens of thousands of immigrants on remote bases in California, Alabama and Arizona, escalating the military’s task in implementing President Donald Trump’s 'zero tolerance' policy for people caught crossing the Southern border." The document outlines plans for "temporary and austere" internment camps for 25,000 migrants "at abandoned airfields just outside the Florida panhandle," and in Alabama, for 47,000 people near San Francisco, and "as many as 47,000 people at Camp Pendleton" in California. The document estimates that operating a camp to detain 25,000 people for six months would cost approximately $233 million.
"Lasers have targeted pilots of American military aircraft operating over the western Pacific Ocean more than 20 times in recent months," said U.S. officials. The lasers appeared to be coming from Chinese fishing boats in the South China Sea, said the officials, which is the setting of a "long-running dispute between China and Japan over the control of nearby islands ... The incidents likely will come up as part of a broader discussion of issues when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visits Beijing next week and meets Chinese President Xi Jinping."
"President Donald Trump has unveiled a new policy that depicts the world’s oceans as a resource ripe for expanded business opportunities, reversing the Obama administration's emphasis on protecting 'vulnerable' marine environments." Rather than emphasizing environmental protection, as Obama's policy did, "Trump’s directive speaks mostly to the oceans as a resource for promoting national security" and creating jobs.