Think of something that is one World Cup, two Olympics and three Christmases away – would you give it much thought? Well, last week’s landslide victory of Chris Christie as New Jersey governor has energized the Republican Party ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
But it’s not that Christie, a pragmatic and mainstream Republican by party standards, would be embraced as someone who can win big in a heavily Democratic state. The opposite is true. Not a day goes by that sees conservative Republicans stabbing Christie. Three years before Election Day, the gloves are off and the knives are out.
Fresh off his 22-point victory at home a week ago, Christie, in a series of TV interviews over the weekend, touted himself as a result-oriented Republican who can get things done and “bring people into your movement”, insinuating that he is the only Republican who can win a national election.
But conservatives would have none of it. In the latest round of Christie-bashing, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is believed to be pondering another run in 2016, openly questioned Christie’s conservative credentials. “Is a conservative in New Jersey a conservative in the rest of the country? We’ll have that discussion at the appropriate time.”
Perry, who steps down as Texas governor next year, is facing a strong tea party rival in his home state which would force him to reposition himself in the presidential primaries as a die-hart conservative.
That rival is Senator Ted Cruz, the new darling of the right wing, who had downplayed Christie’s victory the day after the New Jersey election, labeling the governor a “moderate” – a kiss of death among conservatives.
Cruz has the support of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who was the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2008. In a TV interview, Palin made lukewarm comments about a Christie candidacy in 2016, saying “I would never put my faith and hope in any one politician.”
Other tea party favorites put it more bluntly. In an interview published on Tuesday, Oklahoma’s James Inhofe, one of the most conservative members of the US Senate, openly accused Christie of being responsible for President Barack Obama’s re-election last year. Conclusion: “I’d have a hard time supporting Chris Christie”, Inhofe said.
Inhofe, like many other Republicans, still hasn’t forgotten Christie’s public praise for Obama in the wake of the devastation hurricane Sandy brought upon New Jersey right before Election Day.
Inhofe was just the latest in a lineup of fellow Republican senators who came out of the gates against the governor of New Jersey. Presidential hopefuls Cruz, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Rand Paul (Kentucky) did it last week. Paul likes to call Christie “the king of bacon”, alluding to Christie’s overweight.
Fueling the anti-Christie feelings was a new poll (NBC News) that was published on Tuesday.
That survey reveals that in a hypothetical 2016 presidential election match up, 44 percent of all adults would support Hillary Clinton, while 34 percent would support Chris Christie. Worse for Christie: only one third of Republicans supported his candidacy, while another third preferred somebody else.
Numbers like these go against the narrative that Christie would be the inevitable Republican candidate in 2016 and that he would have a chance of beating Hillary Clinton.
Does Christie have any Republican allies in the fight? The most prominent is Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and loser in the 2012 election.
“Chris, by the way, could easily become our nominee and save our party and help get this nation on the right track again,” Romney said in an interview.