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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Take my governor...please
Posted by Jill | 6:17 AM
Here in New Jersey, in a state that becomes more unlivable by the day, and more impossible to escape, in a town with a corrupt and entrenched Republican government which operates with no transparency and no responsibility, we have in Trenton a man who has inspired one of the most nauseating images you will ever conjure:
"Is it wrong to love another man?" Limbaugh asked. "Because I love Chris Christie."

New Jersey has a massive budget deficit that recent governors have been unable and unwilling to address. This deficit is largely attributable to Christine Todd Whitman, she of the "Sure the air at Ground Zero is just fine, now get back to work" declarations following the 9/11 attacks. With tax cuts paid for by deferred pension fund payments and other budget tricks, Whitman was for a time the darling of the Republicans, but lately is seen more often penning narcissistic screeds on the pages of the Bergen Record, defending her record and insisting that Christie should govern just the way she did.

Give Chris Christie credit for at least trying to do something about the state's budget problems, but he's trying to do it entirely on the backs of the teacher's union while a temporary tax hike on people making over $400,000 a year that expired last December is not going to be renewed.

In my regional school district (which encompasses two twons), the budget passed by eight votes. I'm kind of glad it passed, if only because Christie had told voters to refuse these school budgets. I'm told by our local gadfly that children were told to go home and tell their parents that if they don't vote for the budget, their kids will be bussed to other school districts. Given that we are surrounded on all sides by more affluent towns, I can't imagine what kind of race panic set in, unless these parents decided that the kids would be bussed to Paterson. So I expect my taxes to go up about $400/year, and that's just the schools.

The kicker is that Christie ran on a platform of "New Jersey's property taxes are too high".

As people start to realize what Christie's budget cuts actually mean for them, his approval has dropped 9 points as of the end of March, and the latest Survey USA poll has him at 33% approval.

When people who believed his property tax promise get their property tax bills this year, I expect them to drop further. A state that believed Christine Whitman's "free lunch" doctrine is not going to take kindly to the kind of tax hikes that their towns are going to enact, no matter how much they might enjoy watching unions twist in the wind.

I'd be more likely to say that the unions need to sacrifice too if Christie weren't trying to balance the budget on the backs of everyone BUT the state's wealthiest residents.

So of course the fact that he's becoming more loathed by the day has made Chris Christie the Republican Party's latest darling:

On Thursday, George Will described Christie, New Jersey's new chief executive, as "the nation's most interesting governor." Fred Barnes, in the latest Weekly Standard, devoted 1,741 words to him. And in the Wall Street Journal last week, columnist William McGurn praised Christie for "offering the voters a dose of Reagan Republicanism -- with a Jersey twist." And then there's Rush Limbaugh, who recently treated his listeners to a dramatic reading of Christie's budget address to the state Legislature.


Christie's war on Trenton's status quo comes as the national GOP is faced with an unusual leadership void. Sure, the party is positioned to do well -- maybe very well -- in November's election, but they will owe those gains to the rotten economy, the abundance of low-hanging fruit (Democrats who sneaked into office in the tidal waves of 2006 and 2008), and the buyer's remorse nature of midterm elections. Those variables will be either absent or muted by 2012. To have any hopes of winning then -- and into the future -- the GOP will need what it now lacks: a leader who can give it direction.

Right now, the party has three "front-runners" for its '12 presidential nomination: Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. As Ed Kilgore noted here last week, they all come with serious liabilities -- both in terms of the GOP primary campaign and the general election. More depressing for the GOP, though, is the stable of potential dark horses. That Haley Barbour is now attracting serious presidential buzz tells you about all you need to know.

Viewed in this context, the conservative press' adulation of Christie takes on new significance. The GOP  is essentially holding an open casting call for a new leader right now. The 2012 field really is wide open. Could Christie be the dark horse the right has been looking for?

On the surface, it's a far-fetched notion. He's only been on the job for a few months. He's practically unknown nationally and hasn't been hitting the rubber chicken circuit in Iowa and South Carolina. Nor does he have a substantial donor network. And he's a bit ... um ... corpulent -- not exactly the president out of central casting. 

But it's also not impossible to see an opening for him. Just consider his dark horse competition. In the last few months, the names of Marco Rubio, Scott Brown and Mitch Daniels have been floated -- would Christie really be any more of a long shot than any of them? As his recent media coverage shows, his story is a compelling one for conservatives: a "real" Republican who won in a deeply blue state and didn't back down after taking office.

His stint as U.S. attorney, a post he held for seven years before running for governor, could be an asset too. Christie, who won the job by raising massive sums for George W. Bush's 2000 campaign, milked the post for all of its P.R. worth, targeting political corruption and stinging one crooked pol after another. There are some serious questions about the degree to which politics intruded on his work as U.S. attorney, but New Jersey's electorate didn't really care. His boasts of putting more than 100 corrupt politicians behind bars were good enough for them. A national GOP audience wouldn't be much different.

Plus, unlike most Republicans who win in blue states, he hasn't saddled himself with cultural views that are at odds with the GOP base. Kean, who governed New Jersey from 1982 to 1990, could have been George H.W. Bush's running mate in 1988, but his abortion views disqualified him. Whitman might have claimed the No. 2 slot on Bob Dole's 1996 ticket (whatever that was worth) had she been antiabortion. At least on paper, Chris Christie's profile is quite appealing to the national GOP base.

And if it's a question of ambition, Christie, a one-time student body president at the University of Delaware, probably has it. He's been eyeing the political big-time for years, something I learned all the way back in November 2002, when I was covering politics in New Jersey and writing about potential candidates for the 2005 gubernatorial race. Christie, then finishing his first year as U.S. attorney, was an unknown commodity. But as I was preparing the story, I got a call from one of his friends, politely (but insistently) pointing me to a recent article in another publication that had listed Christie as a future gubernatorial contender. The wheels were already in motion.

Is it likely Christie will seek the GOP nod in '12? Not at all. He'd have to start traveling and raising money almost immediately if he wants to, but he's just months into his first term as governor. The timing just doesn’t work right now. So he'll probably content himself with staying put and attracting more national attention, hoping instead for a spot on the ultimate nominee's V.P. list. And if '12 brings another GOP defeat, he'd then have the option of running for president in 2016. But who knows?

A bully of a governor with a 33% approval rating. So now the Republican Party has two of them. Maybe Christie will quit too so he can compete with Sarah Palin. After all, Limbaugh loves him, and there's no accounting for taste when it comes to Republican sexual fantasies about potential presidential candidates.

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Blogger Nan said...
I really wish I hadn't read that first box quote while eating breakfast.

Blogger Barry said...
>...and more impossible to escape...

It's not like it's North Korea.

Blogger Bob said...
There are a few good aspects, negatively obtained. A wakeup call for Jersey's Democrats. Teaching suburbanites how much they they relied on Trenton for everything from schools to mass transit. Corzine tried to explain this for his whole four years & took crap for it. & some public union contracts had been negotiated more to avoid strife than to get it into the open & really mediate it.

Anonymous Larkspur said...
I'm hung up on wanting Christine Todd Whitman to marry Chris Christie. I mean, Christie Chris Christie. Or, I suppose, formally, Christine Christopher Christie. Erik Erikkson would be jealous.

Blogger LarryE said...
So it comes down to this: We need to balance the budget. In doing that, it is not acceptable for the rich to pay more. However, it is acceptable for teachers to make less.

I think that pretty much sums up not only Christie but the whole GOP as well.

Blogger DBK said...
Moved to Minnesota in 2008. Couldn't be happier. I live in a town with relatively (for Minnesota) high property taxes and one of the best school systems in the state, if not the country. In New Jersey I left a school district that was mediocre to poor. My property taxes are $6000 a year lower than I paid in New Jersey. I still can't figure out why New Jersey pays so much for so little, but it's not my problem anymore.

By the way, if you really want to lower your property taxes, see if they are based on the current comps for sales in your area or are based on 2006 prices. If they are based on 2006 prices and the values have gone down, you can petition to have them lowered. I did that in 2007 because the taxes were raised and yet values were not up nearly what they claimed. We won and lowered our taxes by a couple of hundred dollars.