Never Trust These Vichy Republicans Again

Chris Christie
Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey makes an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

If something good can come of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy in the United States, let it be separating sincere Republicans from pretenders who are willing to sell out every conservative principle they have professed to hold dear for the sake of ratings, sales or their career.

Trump is not a conservative. Many serious rightwingers have said so: from the rabble-rousing Glenn Beck and radio host Erick Erickson on the far right to more establishmentarian thinkers like George Will, the writers at National Review and the neoconservative The Weekly Standard to members of the pro-business Club for Growth and the libertarian Cato Institute.

Nor is Trump a Republican. Serious Republicans have said so as well. Mitt Romney, the party’s presidential nominee four years ago, has called the Manhattan businessman — who supported the Democrats and then a third party before deciding he was a Republican — a “phony” and a “fraud” who is “playing the American public for suckers.”

“If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” the former Massachusetts governor warned last week.

He is right. But that hasn’t stopped some on the right from supporting a man who lacks any and all qualities a serious presidential candidate (or any serious person) must have.

Twitter calls them Vichy Republicans. Here are the worst of them. Read more “Never Trust These Vichy Republicans Again”

Republican Governors Team Up on Inexperienced Rubio

Chris Christie
Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey makes an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

The three Republican governors seeking their party’s presidential nomination each criticized Marco Rubio this weekend, saying the first-term senator from Florida is not ready to succeed Barack Obama next year. Read more “Republican Governors Team Up on Inexperienced Rubio”

Republican Criticism of Obama Foreign Policy Hysterical

Republican House speaker Paul Ryan talks with presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Chris Christie at the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity in Columbia, South Carolina, January 9
Republican House speaker Paul Ryan talks with presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Chris Christie at the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity in Columbia, South Carolina, January 9 (Danny Huizinga)

Republican presidential candidates kept up their fearmongering in a debate televised by the Fox Business Network on Thursday, accusing Barack Obama, the Democrat they are hoping to replace next year, of deliberately weakening America at a time of global upheaval.

From businessman Donald Trump calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the country for fear of terrorists hiding among refugees to Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, conjuring up an apocalyptic scenario in which terrorists simultaneously deploy cyberattacks and dirty nuclear weapons against America — a kind of “existential threat” Obama would not “recognize,” according to the doctor — the national-security discussion got outright ridiculous at points.

Even candidates who are supposed to be more serious (and less popular) made more than a few incredulous statements. Read more “Republican Criticism of Obama Foreign Policy Hysterical”

Bruised Chris Christie Joins Republican Presidential Race

Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey makes an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26
Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey makes an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26 (Gage Skidmore)

New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday he would run for his party’s presidential nomination, joining more than a dozen contenders for the nation’s highest office and increasing the chances of a split in the relatively moderate conservative vote.

Christie earlier said he was staking his bid on “telling it like it this,” arguing, for example, that popular entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, which finance health care and pensions for the elderly, respectively, need to be overhauled.

“My goal for Social Security and Medicare is to make sure it’s there for the people who need it,” Christie said in the early primary state of New Hampshire in April. “The system won’t survive any other way.”

Forecasts prove him right but it is unclear if Christie’s willingness to take on entitlements will help his popularity at a time when the economy is picking up and fewer Americans see the need for drastic changes.

Earlier this month, his approval rating in New Jersey hit a 30 percent low.

Like Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, who announced a candidacy last week, Christie may have missed his chance.

Four years ago, he was a breath of fresh air. Heavily in debt and struggling to create jobs, New Jersey could use some of his tough talk and the media praised him for shying away from divisive social issues like gay marriage and immigration.

Now he seems more like a bully.

Christie has never really recovered from allegations made in 2013 that his staffers deliberately created a traffic jam in Fort Lee, across the Hudson River from New York City, in retribution for the city’s mayor’s refusal to support his reelection.

Investigations have so far cleared Christie of involvement but critics say he created a political atmosphere in Trenton that made opponents fair game.

Christie did battle with the state’s powerful teachers unions in order to weaken tenure, reforms that were hailed by conservatives but are overshadowed by his abrasive style and — most damaging — his persistent inability to balance New Jersey’s books.

Christie set out to reduce an $11 billion budget shortfall with spending cuts alone. He vetoed income tax rises and capped property taxes, leaving an $800 million gap in the state’s budget this year.

New Jersey is still one of the heaviest taxed states in America. Rating agencies have downgraded New Jersey’s creditworthiness nine times since Christie took office. Unemployment has come down from a 9.8 percent high in early 2010 but, at 6.5 percent in April, is still above the national average.

Christie has attacked his main opponent, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, as the candidate of “the elites in Washington,” apparently seeking to portray himself as more of a populist. But he is unlikely to endear social conservatives and tea partiers anyway who see him as a blue-state centrist, leaving Christie to vie for the same center-right voters as Bush. If they split that moderate vote, which typically coalesces around the eventual nominee, it could benefit more right-wing candidates like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry.

Christie Less Viable Contender for Republican Nomination

New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie speaks in Hillsborough, March 2, 2011
New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie speaks in Hillsborough, March 2, 2011 (Bob Jagendorf)

It seems less and less likely that New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, could be a viable contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

Christie hasn’t announced a candidacy yet but is campaigning in the early voting states Iowa and New Hampshire. He is staking his bid — as Christie puts it — on “telling it like it this,” arguing that popular entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, which finance health care and pensions for the elderly, respectively, need to be overhauled.

“My goal for Social Security and Medicare is to make sure it’s there for the people who need it,” Christie said in New Hampshire this week. “The system won’t survive any other way.”

Independent forecasts have long shown both programs are headed for bankruptcy yet many politicians shy away from proposing reforms for fear of losing support.

Christie proposes to raise premiums for Medicare as well as the eligibility age for Social Security, currently set to rise to 67. He also wants to cut benefits for upper-income seniors.

It’s unclear if Christie’s willingness to take on entitlements will help his popularity at a time when the economy is picking up and fewer Americans see the need for drastic changes.

Last month, his approval rating in New Jersey hit a 35 percent low.

The governor’s tough talk, refreshing when he was first elected in 2010, is increasingly seen as abrasive.

He also hasn’t fully recovered from allegations made in 2013 that his staffers deliberately created a traffic jam in Fort Lee, across the Hudson River from New York City, in retribution for the city’s mayor’s refusal to endorse Christie for reelection. Investigations have so far cleared the governor of involvement.

Perhaps most damaging is the fact that Christie’s record as a reform-minded governor in a traditionally Democratic-voting state has started to look less impressive.

His battles with New Jersey’s teachers unions, who resisted his efforts to weaken tenure, were hailed by conservatives. So were his attempts to reduce an $11 billion budget deficit with spending cuts alone. Christie vetoed income tax increases and capped property taxes. He also made pensions more affordable.

Yet there’s still an $800 million gap in the state’s budget this year. New Jersey is also still one of the heaviest taxed states in the union. And its credit rating has been downgraded nine time since Christie took office.

Unemployment has come down from a 9.8 percent high in early 2010 but, at 6.3 percent in December, remains above the national average.

If Christie does run, he could split the centrist conservative vote at the detriment of the presumptive nominee, Jeb Bush.

Although the former Florida governor is less of a moderate than his detractors allow, his calm demeanor and policy-focused speeches fail to enthuse many of base conservatives who turn out disproportionately to vote in presidential primaries. More fiery opponents like Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul may not appeal to a majority of Republicans, nor are they likely to win a general election, but one of them could end up with a plurality of the votes if Bush and Christie must compete for the support of the more pragmatic wing of the party.

Christie Attacks Republican Rival as Elite Candidate

Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaks in Voorhees, May 10, 2011
Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaks in Voorhees, May 10, 2011 (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

New Jersey governor Chris Christie attacked his chief rival for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Jeb Bush, on Thursday as an establishment candidate who is afraid to face voters.

Bush, the son and brother of two former American presidents, is “definitely the frontrunner” if “the elites in Washington” who make “backroom deals” decide the nomination, Christie told a gathering of conservative activists in National Harbor, Maryland. Read more “Christie Attacks Republican Rival as Elite Candidate”

Bush Takes Christie’s Place as Party’s Mainstream Favorite

Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaks in Voorhees, May 10, 2011
Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaks in Voorhees, May 10, 2011 (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s presidential prospects appear to have faded since he became involved in a political scandal. In his stead, Jeb Bush, the former governor or Florida, has emerged as the Republican establishment’s favorite for the next presidential election, due in 2016.

Bush, the son of one former president and brother of another, is appearing with Republican candidates for this fall’s elections across the country and delivering speeches on education and immigration reform.

With no clear presumptive nominee for the next presidential election yet, Bush, a relatively moderate conservative who won considerable support from black and Hispanic voters in Florida — constituencies the party has struggled to appeal to nationwide — is seen as one of few prominent Republicans who could successfully challenge Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, should she decide to run.

It is the very prospect of another Bush-Clinton showdown that worries activist Republicans who are hankering for a radical break with the past. They see John McCain’s and Mitt Romney’s defeats in 2008 and 2012, respectively, as proof that the party should nominate an uncompromising conservative next time around — such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas or Rand Paul of Kentucky.

But Cruz, a right-wing firebrand, would be hard pressed to win over centrist voters who traditionally decide presidential elections while Paul’s libertarian views on civil rights and foreign policy contrast with those of the party’s socially conservative base.

Signaling a more conciliatory tone, Bush suggested last week that illegal immigrants should not be punished as though they had committed a “felony” — in spite of breaking the law. “It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family,” he said of those who cross the border with Mexico illegally in hopes of finding work in the United states.

Most Republican presidential candidates in recent years have called for stricter immigration controls, something that won them conservative applause but also alienated some Hispanic voters.

To win Hispanic votes, Republicans don’t necessarily have to change their immigration policy, Bush said last year — although he later proposed giving illegal aliens some form of legal status short of citizenship. “You have to show a respect that the louder, angrier voices of the Republican Party don’t understand.”

Bush won 80 percent of the Cuban vote when he ran for the governorship of Florida in 2002 as well as a majority of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote. Mitt Romney, by contrast, got only 27 percent support from Hispanic voters.

In a presidential election, Florida’s 29 electoral votes could make a crucial difference. Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, states with large Hispanic minorities that Barack Obama won in the last election, could also become competitive if Republicans are able to overcome Hispanic skepticism.

Challenging rightwingers who call for ideological purity in the wake of two presidential election defeats, Bush argued in an interview last year, “We need to be the governing party. The whole point of this is to take conservative principles and apply them. And the only way you can do that is get fifty plus one.”

Chris Christie, who governs in a state Obama won by almost 18 percentage points in 2012, has made the same argument. “We don’t get to govern if we don’t win,” he told a conservative conference near Washington DC last month.

Christie’s ability to win over centrist and Democratic voters in New Jersey had made him seem a viable presidential contender until it was revealed late last year that some of his staffers had conspired to create a traffic jam in Fort Lee, across the Hudson River from New York City, apparently in retribution for the city’s mayor’s refusal to endorse him for reelection. Christie denied knowledge of and involvement in the lane closures but the revelations nevertheless undermined his credibility. Unless he is cleared of wrongdoing by three different investigations that are currently looking into the scandal, Christie’s presidential prospects look dim.

Bush has said that he will decide whether to run before the end of the year.

Republicans Yet to Decide on Future Strategy

Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaks in Hillsborough, March 2, 2011
Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaks in Hillsborough, March 2, 2011 (Bob Jagendorf)

The contrasting visions offered by Republicans at a political conference this week suggest that their party has yet to come to terms with its recent election losses and decide on a strategy to win back the presidency in 2016.

Whereas New Jersey governor Chris Christie and outgoing Texas governor Rick Perry held up the popularity and success of their administrations as a possible blueprint for a national Republican renewal, Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky implored attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington DC not to lose sight of their principles.

But Christie, who governs in a state Barack Obama won in 2012 by almost 18 percentage points, advocated a more pragmatic approach than Perry, who has governed in one of the country’s most reliably Republican state for twelve years, while Cruz’ and Paul’s ideological appeals had very different priorities.

“We don’t get to govern if we don’t win,” Christie reminded the conference to which he had not been invited last year after appearing with President Obama when his state was recovering from a hurricane. Read more “Republicans Yet to Decide on Future Strategy”

Despite Reelection, Christie Struggles to Endear Republicans

New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie speaks in Hillsborough, March 2, 2011
New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie speaks in Hillsborough, March 2, 2011 (Bob Jagendorf)

New Jersey’s recently reelected Republican governor Chris Christie is seen as a likely contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016. However, cultural differences within his party and a closer look at his record cast doubt on his ability to secure the nomination.

Christie’s commonsensical approach to government allowed him to win over 60 percent support in an election last week in a state that has voted for Democrats in presidential elections since 1988. Yet the very reason he appeals to centrist voters is why social conservatives mistrust him.

The outspoken governor is not one to give in easily on principe but has been willing and able to work with political opponents as well as teachers’ unions who were initially hostile to his efforts to weaken tenure. He opposes both abortion and gay marriage but allows exceptions for the former and refused to continue to fight marriage equalization on his state’s behalf once its supreme court had ruled in favor of it.

Christie might not be a liberal Republican but outside the Northeastern United States, conservatives will likely be inclined to see him that way. As columnist Pat Buchanan, himself once a Republican presidential contender, writes, “Chris Christie is not only from New Jersey; he is indelibly and proudly so.” Not since Tom Dewey in 1948 have Republicans nominated a presidential candidate from the Northeast. It has since become a party of the Far Western, Midwestern and Southern United States. What Buchanan describes as Christie’s “in your face” persona might not charm voters in those regions.

Moreover, Christie seems to have no coattails. Despite his triumph, he failed to make significant gains in the state House or state Senate, both of which remain solidly Democratic.

New Jerseyans like their governor but it hasn’t made them like his party any better.

Christie’s reputation as a budget cutter who restored growth to his state after years of Democratic overspending and mismanagement also doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. He did stave off an $11 billion deficit through spending cuts alone, capped property taxes, vetoed income tax increases and reformed pensions. But he has had less success curbing his state’s unemployment which, at 8.5 percent, is among the ten highest rates in the nation.

New Jersey is also still one of the heaviest taxed states in the union and Christie achieved a balanced budget in part by delaying almost $400 million in scheduled property tax rebates.

Other governors, like Texas’ Rick Perry — who was forced into an embarrassing retreat last time but is rumored to consider running for the nomination again — can point to genuine successes. His state is the second fastest growing, eclipsed only by gas booming North Dakota, and is expected to post an $8.8 billion budget surplus this year.

Christie did do relatively well with minority voters, groups that Republicans elsewhere struggle miserably to impress. Working class voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan as well as suburbanites there and in Virginia, constituencies that helped tip the last election’s balance in President Barack Obama’s favor, could also warm up to Christie — unless, polls show, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s candidate in 2016. But it will take a lot of persuasion for the rightwingers who are most likely to show up in the primaries to vote yet again for a suspected moderate who is clearly not one of them.

Health, Security Disputes Reveal Republican Divide

Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaks in Voorhees, May 10, 2011
Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaks in Voorhees, May 10, 2011 (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

Less than a year after Mitt Romney failed to win the American presidency for the Republican Party, the divide between the party’s centrist establishment and conservative purists has widened. But disputes over health-care and national-security policies do not necessarily break down along ideological lines. The one thing they have in common is that they pit Republicans who can win national elections against those who can’t. Read more “Health, Security Disputes Reveal Republican Divide”