Now that Governor Chris Christie has completed his victory lap with appearances on all four network Sunday morning talk shows, the whole world thinks he’s running for president.
His presidential message of getting things done in a bi-partisan manner is compelling given the current national political environment. If the presidential election was next November, I think he would beat Hillary Clinton or any Democrat.
But the presidential election is in 2016. Before running for president Christie has a year or two governing New Jersey and a year, 2014, as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
2014 will be a busy year for Christie. In addition to the undefined “big things” he said he will accomplish in his second term, there are 36 gubernatorial seats (38 if you consider the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) up in ’14. 19 (20 if you count Guam) of those seats are currently held by Republicans.
In New Jersey, much of Christie’s first term agenda remains undone. Tax cuts, “the property tax toll kit,” civil service reform, education reform, reshaping the State Supreme Court, and gutting COAH are all incomplete. Rebuilding from Superstorm Sandy is his mission. Much of New Jersey is still hurting one year out from the storm.
If Christie can cross off most of his New Jersey agenda from his to do list, get the remaining Sandy survivors back into their homes, and pick up some gubernatorial seats next year, the 2016 Republican presidential primaries will not be much of a challenge. No other GOP contender would be able to match Christie’s “I can get the job done and I know how to win” message.
The conventional wisdom among the national talking heads is that Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and the Tea Party are Christie’s biggest obstacles to the 2016 GOP nomination. The national political media, with major assists from opposition researchers in both parties picking through Christie’s past will also present challenges.
But New Jersey and Washington Democrats have more power to thwart Christie’s agenda and ambitions than any Republicans do.
Without Senate President Steve Sweeney, Christie could not have gotten his hallmark “bipartisan” first term accomplishments; pension and benefit reform, the property tax cap with loop wholes and expiring arbitration clauses, and teacher tenure reform, through the legislature. But Sweeney has also been Christie’s biggest obstacle in turning Trenton upside down. He’s refused to confirm Christie’s judicial nominees and thwarted the “reform agenda” of civil service reform and the rest of the property tax tool kit. Will Sweeney be loyal partner to Christie in the early second term, or will he be an obstructionist collecting chits from Bill and Hillary for his own gubernatorial run in 2017?
Will the Obama Administration bend over to help Christie accelerate assistance to New Jersey resident frustrated with the labyrinth of red tape they’ve been dealing with in trying to recover from Sandy? Christie will likely be employing anti-Washington, anti-Obama rhetoric as he campaigns for Republican gubernatorial candidates around the country next year. Will that impact his ability to get cooperation from Washington for New Jersey’s Sandy recovery?
“It’s all about personal relationships,” Christie said of his landslide victory last week. But in the last year, he has famously burned relationships with Washington Republicans and last week unsuccessfully tried to throw NJ Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr, his mentor’s son, under the bus.
Will Republicans who feel burnt by Christie remain loyal to him? Will the Democrats who supported his reelection and rode his bi-partisan message back into power continue to cooperate now that he is a perceived presidential candidate?
Christie is riding high now. Rightfully so. But the political and governmental landscape ahead looks precarious, especially if Trenton and Washington Democrats suddenly not so bi-partisan in dealing with The Governor.