Down but not out.Mar 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 25 • By MICHAEL WARREN
A Chris Christie town hall feels a little like a rock concert. In this community recreation center in South Jersey, nearly 500 people are seated on the basketball court or in bleachers, forming a semicircle around the space where the big man will speak on a chilly February afternoon. The speaker system is pumping out Springsteen song after Springsteen song (including, wink wink, “Born to Run”). One of Christie’s staff members confidently takes the microphone, does a final sound check for the 15 TV cameras, and welcomes the audience. “Have any questions for me?” the staffer asks. He pauses for a beat while the audience stays quiet. “No one ever does,” he deadpans, and the crowd laughs. As warm-up acts go, he’s not bad.
Minutes later, the hefty (but noticeably trimmer) star of the show bounds out from behind a curtain. Christie shakes a few hands and grabs the mike to begin. As governor, he’s done this 127 times already, though it’s his first town hall meeting in New Jersey since last summer. That gives the proceedings the feeling of a comeback tour. “I like doing them, I enjoy doing them,” he says of town halls. “I miss doing them.”
Christie plays plenty of crowd favorites, like mocking Democrats: “I’m from Trenton, and I’m going to raise taxes, but it’s not going to hurt you.” His Jersey-style declaration earns plenty of approving nods: “I’m not here to be loved, I’m here to be respected.” When it’s time for the Q&A, Christie takes off his jacket and blindly flings it to a roadie—sorry, staffer—behind him. “Let’s get going,” he says, to applause.
Five years into his governorship, the likable and funny Christie still puts on a terrific show. It’s one he’s considering taking on the road in the form of a presidential campaign. He’s been making frequent trips to early primary states like Iowa, whose governor-for-life Terry Branstad is a close pal. And according to New Hampshire Republican party chair Jennifer Horn, Christie’s appearance at last month’s Merrimack County GOP Lincoln Day dinner drew the largest crowd that event’s ever seen. Says Horn, who is remaining neutral in the presidential primary: “There was a lot of enthusiasm in the room for the governor and his message.” The same went for Christie’s appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in late February.
But to most of the political press, the idea of a Christie presidential bid is a joke, even though just over a year ago he was declared the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. Soon after his 2013 reelection, Christie became mired in a scandal involving the closure of several lanes on the George Washington Bridge, causing a major traffic jam. The Republican was accused of ordering this as retribution against the Democratic New Jersey mayors who declined to endorse him, even though multiple investigations have turned up no evidence of Christie’s involvement. But since then, his poll numbers in New Jersey have declined. One poll has his approval rating at an appalling 39 percent. That has convinced observers that Christie is finished as a candidate before he’s even begun.
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential field has begun to take form without him. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker leads in all the early polls and has widespread admiration from conservatives in the party, while former Florida governor Jeb Bush is picking up GOP establishment donors from Christie’s New York City backyard every day. Mark Halperin of Bloomberg, one of the few national reporters to make the trek to Moorestown, asks Christie after the town hall if he’s now an underdog.
Yes, Christie admits, but he acts as if that’s right where he wants to be. “When the son and brother of a president enters the race, they’re the frontrunner, and that should be no shock to anybody,” Christie says. “And so, by definition, everyone else in the race is an underdog. That’s fine, and if I decide to run, you’ve watched me for a long time. I fight pretty well.”
Fight for what, exactly? When he ran for governor, his purpose was clear: Dishonest leadership had left the state in bad financial shape. Christie would talk straight about New Jersey’s fiscal problems and fight hard against the entrenched interests blocking reforms. Christie’s agenda in Trenton is, at best, incomplete, but a twice-elected Republican governor in a deep blue state is a compelling story. Christie, though, will need something more. Backstage after the town hall, I ask him how he’d distinguish his vision for the country from those of the other potential Republican candidates.
9:23 AM, Feb 24, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey will announce in a speech in Trenton Tuesday that the New Jersey Education Association has endorsed the Republican's "roadmap" for pension reform. Christie, who made a national name for himself over his public battles with teachers unions in the Garden State, will be coming "full circle" by having the the state's largest teachers union "come to the table" to negotiate a proposal.
8:01 AM, Feb 18, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
It was more than 20 years in the past that a Bush and a Clinton faced off against each other in a presidential election. Back in 1992, that was incumbent GOP president George Bush and his successful Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. Twenty-three years later, Bush's son Jeb and Clinton's wife Hillary are gearing up for their own presidential runs, and according to a new CNN poll, more Americans see the Democrat as representing the future than they do the Republican.
Handicapping the 2016 GOP fieldFeb 23, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 23 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
It’s still two years before the next president takes the oath of office, but the contest that will determine who raises his right hand that day started in earnest last month for Republicans, with a grassroots gathering in Iowa and a meeting of high-dollar donors in California.
Oh my.Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
Boy, that didn’t take long. Over the span of a few short days in late January and early February, three members of the top tier of Republican presidential candidates demonstrated why they’ll never be president. They didn’t do anything to disqualify themselves directly, just revealed the traits that will make them appear unsuitable to most voters by the time the campaign really heats up, say, when the presidential election is a mere 18 months away.
8:35 PM, Jan 26, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Governor Chris Christie is warning folks to get home by 9 p.m., before the worst of the snow storm is expected. New Jersey (and other states) are expecting to get hit by a blizzard tonight.
8:49 PM, Jan 24, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
New Jersey governor Chris Christie spoke earlier today at Rep. Steve King's Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines. Christie may well have been the 2016 presidential candidate at the confab with the reputation for the most moderate conservative views. But while at first he was greeted with very modest applause, at the end of his 25 minute speech, he received a standing ovation from the conservative crowd:
8:08 PM, Jan 4, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
New Jersey governor Chris Christie celebrated the Cowboys playoff victory over the Detroit Lions by hugging Cowboys owner Jerry Jones:
The governors’ surprise. Nov 17, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 10 • By MICHAEL WARREN
CNN morning host Alisyn Camerota wanted to know: Where had Chris Christie been the night before, when it became clear Republicans would take control of the Senate? The New Jersey governor’s voice was hoarse, his eyes drooping. “I was in 19 states in the last five days,” Christie replied, cracking a weary smile. “So last night I was at home.” Yes, but the next morning, he was back at it, making it to CNN (and Fox News and NBC’s Today Show) to discuss the underreported story of Election 2014. Keeping the House and winning the Senate was all well and good.
12:36 AM, Nov 5, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
As it stands, Republican gubernatorial candiates have far exceeded expectations in tonight's midterms, having secured elections in blue states Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts, and at this hour, possibly Connecticut. Further, embattled GOP gubernatorial incumbents such as Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Sam Brownback in Kansas have been reelected.
12:48 PM, Aug 18, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Possible 2016 presidential candidate Chris Christie refused speak out against the police in Ferguson, Missouri, following the ongoing unrest there.
A reporter "asked Gov. Chris Christie on Friday if he thought there was a general problem in this country with the way police deal with young African American men and teenagers."
4:28 PM, Jul 18, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
It's still a year and a half before the first presidential primaries of 2016, but Gallup has a new survey out asking Republicans and Democrats about the potential GOP candidates. Analyzing those candidates' familiarity and favorability among Republicans, Gallup has discovered the best known and best liked are former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Kentucky senator Rand Paul, Wisconsin congressman and 2012 vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and Texas governor Rick Perry.
Says Christie's the 'real deal' and 'spectacular.'1:57 PM, Apr 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Jeb Bush says that he'll "make up" his "mind at the end of this year" on whether he's running for president in 2016:
Mar 31, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 28 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook continues to scratch its head over the barrels of ink spilled over the Chris Christie bridge scandal. It’s well worth reporting, but none of the Christie revelations to date justify the flood-the-zone coverage. So you’ll forgive us for suspecting that Christie’s political affiliation just might have something to do with the intense media interest. Compare and contrast with this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week, which, unless you live there, you probably haven’t heard about: