Olivia Nuzzi identifies a reason for the governor’s newfound CPAC popularity:
[W]hat’s causing Christie trouble in his home state may be making him fans among many conservatives. In the months since the scandal involving lane closures on the George Washington Bridge became one of the biggest political stories in the country, the liberal media has kept a target on his back. The death of Christie’s political career would be, in part, a victory for a place like MSNBC, which has devoted so much time to covering every little detail and conspiracy of Bridgegate.
The conservatives applauding Christie at CPAC weren’t just applauding another Republican governor, they were applauding the newest enemy of the liberal media.
On Thursday, the political task before Christie was to get a good reception from a skeptical crowd without saying anything that might be used against him in a 2016 presidential bid. He achieved that modest goal. The Democratic Party, in its instant analysis of Christie’s CPAC speech, couldn’t actually find anything noteworthy in the speech. It criticized him for what he “didn’t talk about.”
The first notable elision was Christie’s defense of the Koch brothers, the wealthy backers of Americans for Prosperty, the pro-free-markets activist group. You wouldn’t know that’s who he was defending, because Christie never mentioned their names. Instead he attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has been going after the Koch brothers by name and at length on the Senate floor. This attack on “two American entrepreneurs” was a sign of how pointless Washington had become, according to the governor. Reid should “get back to work and stop picking on great Americans who are creating jobs.” No ad can be run in which Christie can be found praising the Koch brothers, whom liberals are working hard to make household names of horror.
Byron York was disappointed:
It’s not a surprise that Christie didn’t venture far beyond Republican orthodoxy at CPAC. After all, he wasn’t even invited last year. Now, he’s most likely running for president and doesn’t need to alienate some of his party’s most loyal voters. But there are a lot of Republicans who believe the GOP continues to need a serious talking-to, and that Christie could be the man to do it. If he is, he didn’t show it at CPAC.
Alec MacGillis thinks Christie’s fundamental problems remain:
The fact is, there were all along two reasons conservatives, or enough of them, would be willing to live with Christie as a nominee. One is the purely expedient one, the dream of challenging Hillary Clinton not only in purple states but in blue ones. The other, which is often overlooked, is that Christie was poised to rally plenty of conservatives with his knack for bashing many conservative bête noires with untrammeled, gleeful scorn. No, he maybe didn’t agree with you on immigration reform or the propriety of appointing Muslim judges, but he could denigrate lazy, overpaid teachers better than Ted Cruz or Rand Paul could ever dreaming of doing.
Both of those rationales are now out the window.