Chris Christie won big in his reelection to remain the Republican Governor of New Jersey, a mostly blue state. Christie, who thought hard (and was lobbied harder) to get into the presidential election of 2012, and was considered closely by the Romney campaign as a running mate (the Romney camp claims to have dug up horrifying things about Christie before settling on Paul Ryan), is now the frontrunner for the Republican Party nomination for the 2016 race. Here’s why:
1. Chris Christie has proven that he can win over Democrats & Independents
Exit polls showed that Christie took one third of Democrat votes and two thirds of Independent votes. The prevailing trend in state and national elections has been that Republicans play to their very conservative base and cede the middle to the Democrats. That has to change if Republicans want to win national and purple state elections. Christie has shown he can do that.
2. The Republican Party Is Turning Against The Tea Party
Business-focused Republican groups have openly turned against the Tea Party and are supporting candidates like Christie who represent the Republican main stream. One Super PAC is trying to raise $8 million to defend Republicans against Tea Party challengers, and to take back seats from intransigent Tea Party members. Far-right conservative Ken Cuccinelli’s loss in a winnable Virginia governor’s race only strengthens this point.
3. Chris Christie Can Beat Hillary
Hillary Clinton is probably going to run for president and she will probably win the Democratic nomination. If she is, she will be a formidable opponent, with a large natural base of Democrats, women and minorities, and a massive fundraising operation. Far-right Republicans like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have no chance against her. Marco Rubio was a popular pick, but it will become increasingly clear that, like Mitt Romney, he will say what he needs to get elected. Christie has the opposite reputation: a straight shooter who speaks his mind. Obama used Clinton’s political calculating nature to beat her in 2008, and Christie could get a lot of leverage out of the same playbook. That’s not to say he would beat her, but he could, and that’s more than almost any Republican contender can say.
4. Iowa Is Going To Be A Mess
The knock on Chris Christie’s candidacy is that he can’t win in Iowa, the first state to chime in on the nominating contest. Iowa Republicans are very conservative, and Tea Party players like Cruz, Paul, Rubio, Rick Perry and whoever else comes out of the woodwork will be tough to beat there. Christie can focus on New Hampshire, where he can trounce those guys. Jeb Bush could give him trouble, but Christie could have a lot of political space to himself while the others duke it out for the Tea Party vote.
5. The hug
Chris Christie rankled Republicans when he hugged Obama in front of the cameras when Obama swooped in to help New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The Romney campaign was furious, but the image will be an asset to Christie in 2016. It shows the world that partisan gamesmanship is not a concern to the New Jersey Governor.