Sunday, July 15, 2012

Whither Christie?

Tired of the playground brawl that is the presidential election? Does the thought of two wonky, somewhat unpopular guys playing nyah-nyah get you down? Well, there's always the drama created by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

But now that's getting old too.

Yes, it seems as though the GOP's darling is playing a little thinner these days and his antics don't carry quite the same weight as they did eight months ago when he was denying himself, and the poor old United States, a run for the presidency. For the record, Christie will not be Mitt Romney's running mate, nor will he be the Republican Party's candidate for president any time soon, if ever. He might be a featured speaker at the GOP convention or get a cabinet post in a Romney administration and leave the frustrations of Trenton behind, but my sense is that he'd get bored being one of the lesser cabinet members and he could conceivably get us into some kind of war if offered State, Defense or Trade Representative. Secretary of Education? Here's what would happen on his first day in office:

Transportation? Why, use a helicopter to get around the traffic.

The truth is that people in other parts of the country think they know Chris Christie, but really, how do you export that personality to the rest of the country? I've always disliked the stereotype of a "New Jersey attitude" and believe it to be harmful to the state, but even I won't deny that Christie does exude a certain Garden State brusqueness. The problem is that it's getting old here. A few months on the road and you'd see video of people with their mouths agape and eyes aghast at the man. Is he still popular with the base? No doubt. But the rest of the country has some manners, and the governor has shown that at critical times, he doesn't. Even worse, if Romney doesn't win in November, then Christie might get tagged as a loser for supporting him. That would seriously damage his aura.

Don't get me wrong. Christie can point to some significant legislative accomplishments including a 2% cap on municipal spending and the public worker pension and benefits bill that makes teachers, police and firefighters pay more while allowing him to delay full pension payments to the state. And rumor has it that he's about to sign a teacher tenure reform bill that streamlines the process of firing an ineffective teacher, but not after two negative evaluations. That he was able to get the NJEA to the table on tenure is a win for him, but it's only a small part of what he wanted to accomplish, and he's frustrated. The suburbs are pushing back on Charter Schools, and the legislature will not give him that tax cut that is the gold standard of every Republican lawmaker looking to win national acclaim.

The problem is that the Democrats will continue to hold the legislature even if Christie wins reelection in 2013. What fun would that be? And how many more YouTube videos can you make berating retired public workers, soldiers and lefties who question his policies? (No, I will not provide links to those videos, but you can find them easily enough.) So in this summer of discontent, the good governor has some decisions to make. None of them are easy, but all will have long term impacts on his career. I expect that he will carry on as he has been because what he's done so far is not an act. It's who he is. And that might be the biggest problem of them all.

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