How Seriously Should We Take Christie?

Compared to most other GOP presidential contenders, Christie isn’t well liked by Republicans:


Despite such numbers, Mark Leibovich sees the logic of a Christie run:

There is a theory in presidential politics that electorates will gravitate to the candidate who represents the biggest departure from the incumbent, especially if they have grown weary of that incumbent. “That’s the argument people make to me about why I should run,” Christie told me during one of our conversations. “They’re like: ‘No one could be more the opposite of Barack Obama from a personality standpoint than you. Therefore, you’re perfect.’ ” Yet one of the more compelling aspects of a Christie candidacy would be his ability to start an overdue fight within his own party.

In 2012, Mitt Romney never took on the G.O.P.’s far right, which has more than its own fair share of bullies. He was content to run right in the primaries, tout his “severe conservative” stripes and hope it would not end up costing him with swing voters in the general election. (It did.) In a brief period of reckoning after the 2012 election, Republican leaders spoke of their need to expand their shrinking base and appeal to Hispanics, African-Americans, women and younger voters rather than bow to unrelenting hard-liners. Christie could be the candidate with the best shot of pulling this off. “Christie’s strength is that people think he is being straight with them,” said Tom Kean, a former New Jersey governor and one of Christie’s political mentors. “If he kowtows to anyone, and people stop believing that he’s saying what he means, he’s going to kill the brand.”

Kean told me that Christie “is the best politician I’ve seen since Bill Clinton.” [Haley] Barbour said he “has a strong starting place in 2016.” But for all of the noise he has made, there is a difference between being an operative and being a national politician. Christie’s positions on immigration reform, foreign policy and certain social issues remain very much a black hole, not to mention an object of great suspicion, on the right. Running in a Republican presidential-primary campaign would be considerably harder than showering cash on his fellow governors and being dubbed by the media as a “winner” of this cycle. On some level, Christie might be just the latest intriguing moderate for the small media-obsessed wing of the Republican Party that gave us Presidents Giuliani and Huntsman.