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New Jersey Governor Mulls Entry into the Republican Race

Chris Christie, once a fervent non-candidate has been making more amenable sounds of late. His entry could prove a game changer.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 10/3/2011, 2:46 AM

The Republican Party continues to wait for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to decide whether or not he will enter the competition for its nomination.

From a firm no, accompanied by statements that only his suicide would quell speculation, Christie tantalizingly left the door open in his Reagan library speech last week. Now we read that his aides are exploring the options and implications of his tossing his hat into the ring.

Like any non-declared candidate, Chris Christie brings advantages to the table. If one analyzes his Reagan Library address last week, his emphasis will be on a can-do approach to reducing government costs and on doing so on the basis of bipartisan cooperation rather than by bludgeoning the other party into submission.

In his address. he paid tribute to the Democratic leadership in the New Jersey state legislature that was able, like himself, to place the interests of the state above partisan considerations. Chris Christie believes, and this writer's instincts say he is correct, that public opinion still would like to see Republicans and Democrats cooperating on producing effective policy rather than beating each other to a pulp.

Chris Christie took on the civil service unions in New Jersey. However, at the Reagan library where he praised Ronald Reagan for his handling of the air traffic controller labor dispute, he cited the former president as saying that he would have taken the opposite approach had he felt the controllers rather than the airports were in the right. This was an important interpretation.

Christie wanted to signal that while on the issue of pensions and salary freezes for civil service unions in New Jersey he had taken a firm stand, he was not an organized labor basher who wants to cut the unions down to size. He sees himself more as a Reaganesque arbitrator who would decide on the merits of the case.

This way he also created a unique identity in comparison with the rest of the Republican pack.

While not ruling out American activism in the global arena, Christie claims that America enjoys the highest respect abroad when the domestic system is humming along. This too is in sync with American public opinion, that while not neo-isolationist along the lines of Ron Paul, definitely believes that domestic issues deserve priority over global responsibilities.

Chris Christie, even more than Romney, is a candidate who can capture independent voters and could possibly even make inroads amongst Democratic voters.

By putting the Democratic blue state Northeastern firewall into play, he increases the areas that Obama must defend in an election. Assuming that the old industrial states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan – states taken by Barack Obama in 2008 -- are now vulnerable, further losses in the North East would be fatal to the Democratic candidates.

A Christie candidacy would be a death blow to Mitt Romney, as he has all of Romney's advantages with the possible exception of vast personal wealth, with few of his liabilities.

If Governor Christie enters the race, it will temporarily take the heat off Rick Perry, against whom the other competitors have been concentrating their fire.