Christie’s Real Weight Problem – the punditry’s baggage of Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 bid

Does Chris Christie have a Rudy Giuliani-sized lump on his body politic?

While the fat jokes about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie started long before he was elected (recall Jon Corzine’s much-maligned ad from 2009), Christie’s political weight has been the only thing in the governor’s mansion packing on the pounds in recent months.  Thanks in multiple parts to a weak Democrat challenger, a compliant press corps, and a Democrat-leaning special election held weeks earlier, Chris Christie’s 22% margin of victory in ultramarine blue New Jersey has vaunted him to the top of the incredibly-too-early-to-reasonably-speculate GOP sweepstakes.

Christie’s critics suggest his numerous derivations from conservative orthodoxy and penchant for picking fights with his own party spell his early primary doom – presumably because they’ve never met Mitt Romney or John McCain.  But the early line of attack that does seem to be gaining some traction with the only segment of the electorate who cares this early – the punditry – is that Christie is too east coast, too combative.  Too Rudy Giulianiesque:

Talk to early presidential state or Washington operatives and you hear the same thing over and over about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential prospects: He’s the second coming of Rudy Giuliani.

National Democrats have given the idea new life the past week, looking to ding Christie after allowing him to coast to reelection untouched. But the comparison is hardly new: Republicans have invoked it for years, and not in a favorable way – intimating Christie is too provincial and, like the former New York mayor, will prove too liberal to win his party’s presidential nomination. Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has made the analogy privately in conversations.

It’s become a proxy for the debate among Republicans about whether Christie will have staying power in Republican primaries dominated by social conservatives and tea party activists.

The search for over-arching narrative may not be confined to politics, but it’s tendencies towards bias and distortion of historical reality may be the most apparent in the political realm.  Because whether Chris Christie is too moderate or not to secure the Republican nomination in 2016 will ride heavily on the same factors that influenced Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous 2008 bid – tactical execution.

Giuliani was given tremendous (and well-deserved) grief for his 2008 strategy.  The complete lack of messaging; his bizarre and aimless New Hampshire campaigning; the “Florida firewall” after being decimated early in the primaries.  Yet the great irony in Giuliani’s 2008 campaign was that his team’s political strategy won the nomination – it was just performed better by another candidate.

Few recall that until the late fall of 2007, Giuliani’s Iowa spending was second only to Mitt Romney – an under-the-radar attempt made via direct mail not to win the conservative Iowa Caucus, but simply place and defy expectations.  Armed with a solid finish in Iowa, or so the strategy would have suggested, Giuliani could then win New Hampshire where the electorate was more favorable, and coast until Florida, where a major delegate victory could set him up for the early February Super Tuesday.

Sound familiar?  It should – it was how John McCain won the nomination.  McCain pulled his organization in Iowa early yet came in a surprising fourth with 13% (essentially tied for third).  He won New Hampshire and Florida (and South Carolina).  The difference?  McCain knew how to execute a grassroots political strategy.  As for Giuliani:

Giuliani’s [2008 campaign] was the Potemkin Village of presidential campaigns: What looked like a campaign was just a facade for the cameras and national media. It was artifice, disrespectful of the process and the voters. Perhaps this is what campaigns in New York City are, where everything plays out on TV and in the tabloids, where no grassroots grow in the concrete jungle.

Chris Christie, for all his political warts, doesn’t have the same political Achilles’ heel.  His grassroots interactions are far from artificial.  Like Giuliani, Christie will likely attempt to gain his first primary victory in New Hampshire.  Unlike Giuliani, Christie’s visits to every coffee-shop and greasy spoon in the Granite State won’t come across as wooden as Hizzoner’s travels appeared.

What Christie truly may share with Rudy Giuliani is his greatest political opponent – his ego.  Giuliani thought he could reinvent the primary wheel because he found it distasteful to hob-knob with Iowans and New Hampshirites.  Christie may believe that he can land in Iowa or South Carolina and strong-arm his opponents into submission.  Doing so will likely only result in a series of tense confrontations with electorates far less interested in Christie’s combative style of debate – perfect YouTube fodder.  A wiser Chris Christie will carefully pick his primary battles, targeting the more friendly confines of the usual primary suspects in New Hampshire, Michigan and Florida.

But does that sound like Chris Christie?

24 thoughts on “Rudymentary

  1. Good stuff, FR. Giuliani ran a very puzzling campaign. The other guy who was puzzling in that cycle was Fred Thompson, who seemed to view the primary season as a casting call.

  2. North-easterners (Dukakis, Kerry, Giuliani, Romney) are not like other Americans. They own fewer guns, go to church less and drink more wine.
    Romney’s problem was not that he was crazy but that he needed the crazies to win the primary and the general thus had to act like one and promise to govern like that. Mr. Christie has to win without ever pretending to be someone that primary voting Republicans love. If he can stand up to Republican primary voters successfully, and skewer some sacred cows and still win, he’ll have the general election made.

  3. The people who vote in GOP primaries chose GHW Bush in 1992, Dole in 1996, GW Bush in 2000 and 2004, McCain in 2008, and Romney in 2012.
    Democrat primary voters chose the most Left-wing presidential candidate in the history of the United States in 2008 and 2012.
    Empirical evidence shows that GOP primary voters choose moderates, while Democrat primary voters choose extremists.

  4. It must be terribly confusing to be a liberal commenter. One day you’re saying that the GOP has become so conservative that Reagan couldn’t make it through the primaries, the next day you’re saying that Christie has a good shot at making it through the Republican primaries and on to the White House.

  5. One day you’re saying that the GOP has become so conservative that Reagan couldn’t make it through the primaries, the next day you’re saying that Christie has a good shot at making it through the Republican primaries and on to the White House.

    Emery really ought to change his avatar to the March Hare and be done with it.

  6. If a winner in a Democratic state like Christie can’t start to deflect the Republicans from going over the cliff, who can?

    The question is:
    Can Christie win the nomination without pandering to the far right nut jobs?

    /Speaking to the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual conference in Washington is a rite of passage for almost any Republican considering a presidential run.

    For the candidates, it is a chance to introduce themselves to some of the party’s most fervent activists.

    One notable absentee is Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J. Marx says the New Jersey governor was invited, but declined. Instead, Christie will be joining former President Bill Clinton at a Clinton Global Initiative conference in Chicago.

    Christie also missed March’s CPAC conference, although in that case he was not invited to attend./

    “If you are thinking of running in 2016, and decline to attend one of these gatherings, you run the risk of alienating people whose support you’re going to need down the line,” says Eric Fehrnstrom, a former senior adviser to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

  7. the far right nut jobs?

    Yes, Emery – why don’t we take your prescription for our future success seriously, given your obvious respect and regard for conservatism?

  8. Emery, I have used empirical fact to demonstrate the GOP primary voters choose candidates who are moderates. What do you think when real data shows that your thinking is wrong? Read an old Atlantic piece about how Palin’s husband belonged to some group of beer swilling secessionists? Recall that Bachmann’s one-time church believed the pope to be the antichrist?
    I’m serious, Emery. How do you process information that conflicts what you read at Huffpo or hear from the political pundits on the Comedy Channel?

  9. Consider me duly admonished. I agree that was a rather indelicate turn of a phrase. Conservative activist base would have been more suitable. As entertaining as the 2012 GOP presidential candidates were, not a one of them (the exception of Romney and Pawlenty) were fit for the general.

  10. “I have used empirical fact to demonstrate the GOP primary voters choose candidates who are moderates.” Yes that is the demonstrated behavior thus far.

    My concern is whether the current ‘tug of war’ between the activist base and the establishment will produce candidates like Cruz or Paul. Or will the Chamber and other establishment types circle the wagons around a center–right candidate. I want a candidate that can win the general, not win a test for ideological purity.

  11. If a winner in a Democratic state like Christie can’t start to deflect the Republicans from going over the cliff, who can?

    The country has already gone off the cliff under Obama and repeated QEs, but like a cartoon character it will hang there in space until it looks down. Then when Wile E. Coyote-ugly Pelosi pulls the rip-cord (to see what’s in it) it will be an anvil, rather than a parachute. Hilarity ensues.

  12. We have the most radical president in US history in the oval office now. He has increased our debt by trillions and socialized — brought under the direct control of federal political appointees and bureaucrats — 20% of the US economy. Yet Emery thinks that reducing spending to 2008 levels would be ‘going over the cliff’.
    You are in a bubble, Emery.

  13. I try to be fair, so let me rephrase the “coyote-ugly” reference I made earlier which was too-easily hung on Nancy Pelosi. We didn’t run off the cliff just because of the Democrats, but also because (with the exception of Obamacare) of the Republicans who we were told were better to take home than a Democrat. In the cold light of day after election night these too often turned out to be pretty much the same hag/hack. It’s enough to make you want to chew off your voting hand – or at least quit going back to the same Parties over and over again.

  14. ” I want a candidate that can win the general, not win a test for ideological purity.”

    Yeah, you and every other anti-American, leftist wombat out there. Thanks for caring.

    Every time I hear some lefty offer Arne Carlson, Chris Christie style Repub as the solution to all the GOP’s problems I chuckle.

    These are the sorts of go along to get along, let’s all do lunch professional politicians that got us to where we are today.

    Yes, I’m saying before I vote for a New Jersey Republican who promises to “fix” Obamacare, I’ll vote for an honest power mongering lefty that we can clearly identify as an enemy of liberty.

  15. PM, you seem a bit curmudgeonly today. We’ve all become accustomed to our free lunch, and we never tire of electing politicians that promise it to us.

    US National Debt & Interest Expense by Presidential Term, Percentage of GDP:
    189.6% increase under Reagan
    56.6% increase under Bush Sr.
    89% increase under Bush Jr.
    42.3% increase under Carter
    35.6% increase under Clinton
    103.9% increase under Obama

  16. Great stats Emery. How about let’s list the percentage decrease in personal freedom and privacy under those administrations. Because where the rubber meets the road, it don’t matter how much money you save when you can’t choose to when or where spend it.

  17. “These are the sorts of go along to get along….”
    If the Tea Party is able to frame it’s message and resonate with voters then you will your man in office. Otherwise, the Republicans will end up with an ideal Manchurian Candidate for 2016. Havana’s inside project.

  18. If the Tea Party is able to frame it’s message and resonate with voters then you will your man in office

    See also 2010.

    Related: The MSM’s four year effort to paint the Tea Party as “extremists”.

  19. The Tea Party message of fiscal responsibility resonates with many. Shutting down the government not–so–much. Tea Party candidates such as: Murdock, Akin, Angle, O’Donnell, Buck and Cuccinelli, have not resonated with voters because of their “extreme” positions. To succeed, the Tea Party will have to adjust and learn the difference between purity and winning.

  20. “US national debt and interest expense by Presidential term….” Remember that playing with percentages can be highly deceiving-the higher the number the lower the percentage. Example: President “A” raises the debt from, say, 10 to 20. Math-wise, that’s a 100% increase. President “B” then raises the debt from 20 to 30. Math-wise, that’s only a 50% increase. But notice both of them raised the debt the same amount-10 units (of whatever you’re talking about). The press then praises “B” for only raising the debt 50% compared to “A’s” 100%. Sound familiar?

  21. Let me point out that for most of Clinton’s presidency, the GOP controlled both houses. This is primarily the reason that his spending was curbed and that there was albeit small, a budget surplus when he left office.

  22. Just one of the problems with Christie is that he had absolutely no coattails. Despite his personal popularity, he still has a Democrat assembly to deal with despite his huge (pardon the expression) victory. He is not able to inspire anyone else to support his message through votes down ticket. That is part of the job of a national candidate, to help move voters in the direction of the national party.

    Weak candidates such as Mitt Romney, Bob Dole, John McCain and others who could not articulate a conservative message because it wasn’t part of their core values learned this at first hand. We as a nation suffer for it because their defeats brought us Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

    Nobody is going to confuse Chris Christie with conservatism. He’s no more than another Northeastern Mitt Romney clone, just with a bigger mouth. If he is the nominee in 2016, the Republican Party will lose another big hunk of its base and will once again learn that you can’t out-Democrat the Democrats.

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