Nothing against Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan, but in recent weeks fiscal hawks have found a new heartthrob, New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Marc Thiessen writes on the Christie boomlet at the Washington Post:
The newly minted Republican governor of New Jersey is mentioned everywhere these days. Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn has praised Christie for reviving "Reagan Republicanism -- Jersey style." The Weekly Standard calls Christie "the unlikely conservative rock star." National Review declares "Viva Christie!" And in The Post, George Will has called Christie "the Trenton Thunder."
How has Christie captured the imaginations and hearts of conservatives after just 13 weeks in office? Begin with his willingness to speak the truth. He calls New Jersey a "failed state" and has pledged to end "Trenton's addiction to spending." He promises to deliver "smaller government that lives within its means" -- and to do so without tax increases, declaring "I was not sent here to approve tax increases, I was sent here to veto them." In the age of Obama, this is music to conservative ears.
More important, Christie is backing up these words with bold action. He put forward a plan to eliminate $10.7 billion from New Jersey's massive $38 billion budget for 2011 -- a cut of nearly 30 percent. He has taken on the state teachers union, demanding that teachers take a one-year pay freeze and begin contributing something to their generous state pensions and health benefits. When the union balked, Christie called on New Jersey voters to send a message by defeating local school budgets at the polls. Voters responded by rejecting 54 percent of the school spending plans, the most since 1976 -- giving Christie a strong mandate to push through his reforms.
Unfortunately, a recent SurveyUSA poll showed that New Jerseyans don't much care for Christie's tough love: 33% approve and 63% disapprove of his job performance. But if he can get the state's fiscal house in order, those numbers will improve.