…in as much as it has a soul, anyway.
Politically, Hurricane Sandy was an incredible stroke of luck for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He got to pull a Giuliani and appear heroic during a crisis. He got to cross the aisle and work with a Democratic President he’s publicly opposed to get shit done. He got to finally – FINALLY! – align himself with Bruce Springsteen for a common cause.
Coming out of Sandy, and following his fiery/crazy speech at the Republican National Convention last summer, Christie appears poised to win the GOP’s nomination for president in 2016.
Maybe. If the Republicans have a lick of sense.
Christie is by far the most electable, prominent candidate the Republicans have. However, by even daring to work with President Obama, and even going so far as to praise his efforts during the Sandy aftermath, Christie has already pissed off a large portion of his party’s base.
Then, Christie continued to needle the conservative side of the party by (rightly) complaining about Congress delaying a Sandy support bill
Predictably, some of the GOP’s rank and file have come out in public opposition to Christie. They’re both bitter that he lauded Obama just before the election and fearful that, if elected, Christie would be much more moderate a president than they’d be comfortable with. As Christie’s approval ratings soar, Republicans grow ever more concerned.
And that’s because they are a party of idiots.
They should have learned from the 2012 election, against a vulnerable incumbent in the midst of a weak economy, that veering far right is not going to win them presidential elections anymore. At least not until the next terrorist attack. Catering to the Tea Party can still win Congressional seats in red or purple states, but U.S. demographics have shifted to the point that you can’t only appeal to old white men and win general elections. But Republicans might not be capable of learning, at least not as a large, functional unit. This is, after all, the party that opposes the reality-based community.
So, in 2016, the Republicans will have to choose between a highly electable candidate who doesn’t swing as far right/crazy as they’d like, or a more conservative candidate in the Boehner or Santorum mold. (And please let it be known that I have a ton of problems with Chris Christie. I just think the Republicans would be insane not to seize on his momentum.)
In 2012, the most electable candidate probably did make it through the primaries. Mitt Romney is pretty awful, but he’s not Rick Perry or Santorum or Newt Gingrich. Still, Romney swung far to the right to secure the nomination and Christie would no doubt have to do the same. But Romney also hadn’t pissed off a decent percentage of his party before primary season even began. He only had to deal with the scrutiny of being a former governor of a liberal hotbed like Massachusetts.
The culture war that has engulfed the entire United States for the last two decades is not going to center squarely on the Republican Party. The Tea Party and Christian conservatives will fight tooth and nail against Christie, not knowing or caring that he’s their best chance at a Republican president right now. The more moderate, level-headed, fiscally focused side of the party — if it even still exists — will back Christie as the most popular candidate. Christie himself will have a lot to say about how this plays out. Personally, I’m hoping the party blows itself up and nominates someone like Paul Ryan, because that will make it easier for Hillary Clinton (or whomever) to win the election. But I’m fascinated to see how it plays out.