Monday, 26 September 2011

Good news from the Republican Campaign trail?

I had another post in mind for tonight but got distracted by reading this excellent piece by Nate Silver, on the potential entrance of Chris Christie into the Republican race for 2012.

Previous readers will know I have a fondness for Christie myself, and have written about his a couple of times. Silver discussed in depth the potential for Christie to enter the 2012 race, something which I think many moderate Republicans will want. Speaking as a right wing moderate (with Libertarian seasoning) I've been pretty horrified by the Republican field this year, it seems dominated by the frothings of Rick Perry and Bachmann, with Mitt Romney doing his best to see interesting and like he has a policy position.

Silver asks the important question of where would Christie syphon votes from if he did enter the race. Personally my view would be that he would displace Romney, who he shares the most common policy ground with. However, I think he would also provide a fresh, dominant voice taking a more coherent and sensible policy platform, which would draw away from the Perry/Bachmann crazy camp.

The media narrative would also be supportive, Christie is relatively well liked by the right wing media, but has done well in not creating significant enemies amongst the left wing (or at least that's my perception). Particularly as the race moves beyond its initial "entertainment" phase, to the period in which candidates are actually expected to be candidates instead of clowns, Christie is likely to be able to argue that the moves he has made in New Jersey could be scaled up to a national platform.

He would also be one of the few candidates who would be likely to appeal on a national platform in the general, something which at the moment I don't believe anyone is able to do. Floating voters, it seems, are unlikely to be drawn to any of the existing candidates and will either vote for Obama (again) or simply not vote. A moderate Republican with a strong story to tell on fiscal reform (albeit at a state level) would appeal to many, particularly if he is able to well articulate his positions on issues like gun control and immigration, where he is to the left of the Republican mainstream (but not so far out of touch as to wholly alienate him from the Republican base).

It also shouldnt be forgotten that Christie has already done a little bit of work on presenting himself as a potential successor to Obama (more on that below)

Silver does a solid analysis of several of the core policy issues being discussed at the moment and where Christie stands on them:

Gun Control. New Jersey, a mostly suburban state, tends to take a moderate position on gun control, and Mr. Christie has in the past as well. In 2009, Mr. Christie’s campaign rebutted a claim by his Democratic opponent, Jon Corzine, that he stood with the N.R.A. by pointing out that Mr. Christie supported the assault weapons ban and opposed concealed carry laws. A statement on Mr. Christie’s campaign Web site in 2009 said that he supported New Jersey’s existing gun control laws, which are fairly strict.

The Environment and Global Warming. During the 2009 campaign, Mr. Christie sometimes critiqued Governor Corzine’s performance on the environment from the left, and he won the endorsement of the New Jersey Environmental Foundation, the first statewide Republican candidate to do so in 30 years.

More recently, however, Mr. Christie withdrew New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program. But while so doing, he stated explicitly that global warming was real and manmade and endorsed the views of the consensus of climate scientists. Mr. Christie has also opposed plans to drill for oil off of New Jersey’s coast.

Immigration. In 2008, Mr. Christie, then a United States attorney, stated that “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.” The statement drew a harsh critique from CNN’s Lou Dobbs, who called for Mr. Christie’s resignation, and is a good bet to make a reappearance in one of his opponent’s campaign commercials should Mr. Christie enter the race.

Mr. Christie has received an F from NumbersUSA, an organization that favors greater restrictions on both legal and illegal immigration.

Social Issues. Mr. Christie is an opponent of both abortion rights and same sex marriage, but his campaign Web site in 2009 stated that he had “no issue with same sex couples sharing contractual rights,” an apparent reference to New Jersey’s existing civil unions law.

In 2010, Mr. Christie broke with other prominent Republicans by accusing his party of “overreacting” to the proposed construction of an Islamic mosque and cultural center near the ground zero site, although he also criticized President Obama’s position on the issue.

‘Post-Partisan’ Branding. Although in some ways Mr. Christie’s outspoken, no-holds-barred style might seem like an antidote to Mr. Obama, whom Mr. Christie has criticized for weak leadership, there have also been times when Mr. Christie’s messaging has resembled that of the president.

One noteworthy example is a video that Mr. Christie’s campaign released in the closing days of the 2009 campaign. It featured extended and positively framed clips of Mr. Obama, who was more popular then, and interspersed images of supporters of Mr. Christie and Mr. Obama, implying that Mr. Christie would be in the legacy of Mr. Obama’s mandate for “change”.

So there you have it. At this stage it seems unlikely Christie will throw his hat into the ring. Personally I think he was hoping he could wait until 2016, and go head to head with a new Democratic challenger, rather than against and incumbent president, however it's entirely feasible that he could decide now is the time. A 2012 run might even help him in 2016, revealing weaknesses and gaps in his platform which could be plugged in the following four years (assuming he doesn't win)

Fingers crossed, if only because it might inject some real energy into a primary season which seems to have become mired in the petty bickering of people who barely scrape together credibility inside their own party, let alone on the international stage.

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