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The Christie Juggernaut

The New Jersey governor muscles his way to the front of the pack, for now.

Nov 18, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 10 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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“Governor Christie is the first pro-life governor of New Jersey since Roe v. Wade,” DuHaime notes. Christie vetoed taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood five times, for which he was relentlessly attacked by Buono. He still won female voters by 12 points.

Buono also hammered Christie for vetoing a gay marriage bill, and during an October 15 gubernatorial debate, Christie was asked what he would do if his own child came out as gay. “I would grab them and hug them and tell them I loved them,” Christie replied. “But what I would also tell them is that Dad believes that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Of course, there will be a lot of Republicans jockeying for the nomination in 2016 who are both fiscal and social conservatives. Christie’s great strength is his larger-than-life personality. Some might find his blunt approach obnoxious, but a great deal more will consider his demeanor a gust of fresh air. Both Christie and Giuliani worked as federal prosecutors, but Christie comes across more as a working-class New Jerseyan than as an executive from Manhattan.

Christie works a room full of voters with ease, chatting up folks about their meals and planting big smooches on the cheeks of his female fans.

“We were talking about how good he looks with the weight loss. Phenomenal,” one waitress at the Peterpank Diner tells me during Christie’s Election Day visit. “I lost like 75, so I was telling him I know what it’s like.”

While Christie’s weight problem is seen as a potential political problem by some (he had to have lap-band surgery this year), it actually serves as a way for him to relate to others and be self-deprecating.

Later, a woman tells Christie she drove many miles just to get a special sandwich called a Fat Owl, which is stuffed with meatballs, mozzarella sticks, and French fries. “Sounds like something I don’t need,” Christie replies.

Christie will face plenty of challenges in 2016. The field will likely be full of political talent, and Christie definitely isn’t a purist. He will have to convince enough Republican primary voters that his deviations from the conservative line on issues like guns, gay rights, and immigration don’t make him an unacceptable choice.

In the past few months, Christie declared support for in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants, signed one gun control bill while vetoing others, and signed legislation often described as a ban on “gay conversion” counseling for minors. “The bill does not ban a specific kind of destructive therapy; it is a blanket ban on any licensed counseling professional helping any teenager who does not wish to act on gay (or transgender) desire,” Maggie Gallagher, a leading social conservative, wrote at National Review Online.

But, as Christie might say, do you want to win the argument, or do you want to govern?

It’s also not clear how Christie’s hawkish denunciations of libertarians like Kentucky senator Rand Paul will play out. In the wake of allegations by Edward Snowden about the scope of the NSA’s surveillance programs, Christie said at a July forum in Aspen that libertarian opposition to government surveillance is “a very dangerous thought.”

“These esoteric, intellectual debates—I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation,” he said.

“President Obama has done nothing to change the policies of the Bush administration in the war on terrorism,” Christie added. “And you know why? ’Cause they work.”

Perhaps Christie’s most difficult task will be explaining his decision to expand Medicaid in New Jersey with federal dollars allocated by Obamacare. “He will always do the right thing for the people who elected him,” says one GOP operative who supports Christie.

That argument won’t fly in Republican primaries outside of New Jersey, but running hard against Obamacare and in favor of a reformist agenda just might do the trick.

“Campaigns are never about yesterday. They’re always about tomorrow,” Christie says during his election eve speech in Morris County. “The candidate that people want to vote for is the candidate who credibly and honestly expresses his optimism and has a plan for the future.”

John McCormack is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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