In his victory speech Tuesday night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pitched his sweeping victory as a national model for the GOP — and openly hinted that it would be a blueprint for a 2016 presidential bid.
Christie assembled a winning coalition in the solidly-Democratic state by reaching out to groups that don’t traditionally back GOP candidates. He won 57 percent of women, 51 percent of Hispanics, even 21 percent of African-Americans — the same groups of voters the GOP has struggled to attract in recent national races.
But his reelection strategy also underlines a challenge for Christie’s presidential aspirations: The same attributes that make him a strong general election candidate could hurt him during the GOP’s nominating fight. On the way to his reelection rout, Christie has given potential 2016 GOP rivals openings to attack his conservative credentials on several key issues:
1. Gun control: In April, Christie unveiled proposals to strengthen New Jersey’s gun control laws that promised to win him favor at home but threatened his standing with national gun rights advocates. When the state legislature sent three anti-gun bills featuring similar proposals to Christie’s desk in August, he refused to sign the measures, sending two back to the legislature and vetoing a ban (which he had proposed in April) on the Barrett .50 caliber rifle. Democrats howled, accusing Christie of flip-flopping in an effort to appease his critics on the right. Yet some conservatives still don’t trust Christie on guns. Even after Christie refused to sign the three bills, National Review‘s Charles Cooke wrote that the governor has “one of the worst Second Amendment records in the country.”
2. Gay marriage: Influential social conservatives, like Iowa’s Bob Vander Plaats, balked last month when Christie dropped his appeal of a ruling legalizing gay marriage in the Garden State. When the state Supreme Court rejected Christie’s attempt to delay the first same-sex weddings while it heard his appeal, the governor said the court made it clear that it intended to uphold the lower court’s decision. Christie can point to the fact that he previously vetoed a bill legalizing gay marriage, but critics argue that he gave up the fight too early in the face of mounting pressure in a Democrat-dominated state. For some social conservatives, the move seemed to confirm already-lingering questions about Christie’s commitment to their issues. “This just adds more concern to those cautionary flags,” Vander Plaats said.
3. Immigration: Christie has made reaching out to Hispanics a top priority in his reelection bid. As part of that push, he walked back his previous opposition to DREAM Act-like legislation during a speech to a Latino group in October. Christie’s team is betting that a demonstrated ability to appeal to Hispanics in New Jersey can go a long way to convincing Republicans that he offers an antidote to one of the biggest problems plaguing the GOP. But appearing soft on immigration carries considerable risk, as Sen. Marco Rubio and his declining 2016 stock can attest.
4. Close relationship with Democrats: Christie’s controversial embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy led some Republicans to question his loyalty to the party. Some of Christie’s actions during his reelection fight could provide opponents with additional fodder to make similar attacks. National Republicans privately fumed when Christie scheduled the U.S. Senate special election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg for October, accusing the governor of sacrificing the GOP’s ability to pick up the seat in favor of his personal political interest. Meanwhile, in the closing weeks of his campaign, Christie made a habit of appearing with some of the state’s most prominent Democrats, like Sen. Cory Booker and Garden State Democratic power brokers George Norcross and Joe DiVincenzo, in an effort to tout his bipartisan successes in a blue state. While Christie’s ability to work across party lines serves him well in New Jersey and could be an asset in the general election in 2016, it could hurt him with Tea Party supporters during the GOP nominating process.
What We're Following See More »
Twenty-one states, the District of Columbia and several public interest groups filed the first major lawsuits Tuesday to block the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules. The FCC's rules had prohibited Internet providers from slowing down or blocking websites. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the states' suit, said that the FCC’s repeal was “arbitrary” and “capricious” and violates federal law. The suit comes just a day after Democrats in the Senate said they were inching closer to acquiring the votes needed to pass legislation overturning the FCC's rule change. It has garnered the support of all 49 Democratic senators as well as one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
"A former C.I.A. officer suspected of helping China identify the agency’s informants in that country has been arrested, the Justice Department said on Tuesday. Many of the informants were killed in a systematic dismantling of the C.I.A.’s spy network in China starting in 2010 that was one of the American government’s worst intelligence failures in recent years, several former intelligence officials have said. The arrest of the former agent, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, capped an intense F.B.I. investigation that began around 2012 after the C.I.A. began losing its informants in China."
"Three-quarters of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service abruptly quit Monday night out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year. The resignation of nine out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a functioning body to designate national historic or natural landmarks. It also underscores the extent to which federal advisory bodies have become marginalized under the Trump administration."
"House GOP leaders on Tuesday night pitched a new strategy to avert a looming government shutdown that includes children's health funding and the delay of ObamaCare taxes. Lawmakers need to pass a short-term stopgap bill by midnight Friday, when money for the federal government runs out. The latest GOP plan would keep the government’s lights on through Feb. 16, and be coupled with a six-year extension of funding for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The continuing resolution or CR would also delay ObamaCare's medical device and Cadillac taxes for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year starting in 2019."
"A key Senate negotiator and White House official on Tuesday expressed little hope for an immigration deal this week but nonetheless predicted that Congress can avoid a government shutdown." Marc Short, the White House Capitol Hill liaison, said he's optimistic about a deal on DACA overall, but not this week. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn also said he doubts an agreement can be made before week's end.