The Republican party is undergoing an internal battle that will shape the party, indeed the country, for the next decade. There is a massive struggle underway between hard-line no compromise conservatives and the more moderate, pragmatic and less ideological wing. It is my belief that if Republicans want a chance to beat Hillary Clinton (who is running of course) in 2016, they need to nominate a Republican who has crossover appeal. Right now, the man who fits that bill is the Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie.
In New Jersey, Chris Christie won in a largely Democratic state by a landslide. And not only that, he performed extraordinarily well in every major demographic that Republicans need to improve on to win in 2016. He won 53% of the female vote running against a female opponent. He won 51% of the Hispanic vote and 21% of the African-American vote – both huge numbers for a Republican. He also won 66% of the independent vote as well as 32% of registered democrats. In each of these demographics, Christie increased his percentage of the vote by double digits from his 2009 election. He clearly had broad appeal across wide swaths of the voting population in New Jersey.
The knock on Christie, at least within the Republican party, is that he is not a true conservative. He’s a RINO, as it were (Republican In Name Only). And his RINO policies will not play in Republican primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, and throughout the South.
But those are the shouts from a wing of the party that just shutdown the government without any viable strategy for a successful outcome and who are disliked by a wide majority of this nation. While Christie may not pass a Tea Party litmus test, he is certainly a conservative with a small “c”.
In New Jersey, he passed balanced budgets each year, a far cry from his liberal predecessor John Corzine. And he did so without raising income tax, sales tax or corporate business taxes. He also capped property tax increases a historically low 2% a year.
He has reformed the government’s financial obligations with the public sector, including reforms to public sector pensions that will save New Jersey $120 billion over 30 years. His epic battle with the teachers unions over benefits and tenure has been played out all over YouTube. Here is just one entertaining example:
Christie’s only area of vulnerability on his conservative credentials is his stances on social issues and gun control. Although he vetoed a bill in 2012 that would have legalized same sex marriage, he recently directed the New Jersey attorney general to drop an appeal of a ruling allowing same-sex marriage, effectively sanctioning the rule. He also recently signed into law a series of bills tightening restrictions on guns in New Jersey.
The Republican party will no doubt debate Christie’s record in the years to come. But what everyone can agree on is the man has produced results in New Jersey, and has done so with broad-based appeal to a wide demographic of voters.
The face of our nation is changing. As new generations of Americans rise, the importance they place on traditional social values becomes less and less. Republicans can no longer win elections with the support only of their traditional constituencies. They must put forward candidates who can win significant portions of the changing demographics of America – Hispanics, African-Americans and women.
Christie has proven it can be done. And done without abandoning the core principles of conservative values – fiscal discipline, strength, and equal opportunity not equal outcomes.
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