(Editor's note: This is not an endorsement. Leading up to the 2016 presidential nominating contests - which rest assured have already begun - all leading possible contenders will be analyzed from a conservative perspective. We will highlight the major benefits and pitfalls of all possible candidates.)
Is Chris Christie
running for president in 2016? Is the sky blue? Does the sun rise in the west and set in the east? Christie is probably the closest thing there is a sure bet to a presidential contender as there is. With a potential second term as governor of New Jersey ending shortly after the 2016 elections, Christie will have no where else to realistically go if he plans on staying in politics. And if he manages to stay relatively popular across the board, he won't squander the chance by waiting around for 2020 or, should a Republican win, 2024. So chances are, Christie will run.
Electability always plays a role into presidential contests. While many conservatives were not supportive of a Romney run in 2016, he was probably the most electable in the field that chose to run. (Personally speaking, he finished the campaign as probably the most impressive candidate to have ever lost the presidency.) And that electability perception factored into his eventual victory. Christie will play many of the same cards. He is the governor of a blue state. Unlike Romney, he might actually be elected twice. He has high levels of support with Democrats and Independents (though he dips with Republicans compared to others). And not just average favorables with Democrats and Independents. But really, really good favorables.
Early polls (or really, really, really early polls if your prefer) show Christie in a statistical tie with Hillary Clinton, the most likely Democratic nominee if she runs. And he is well ahead of VP Joe Biden early on. So, right now Christie is viewed as the most electable. As the only blue state governor on the list of nominees, his argument as electable would be convincing. And unlike Mitt Romney, Christie is actually popular with his voters and could potentially carry his home state.
Sour Relationship with Conservatives
Early on, Christie earned praise from conservatives for his no-nonsense, aggressive style. He yelled back at reporters and fought back against political opponents who questioned his policies. But as time passed and 2012 grew near, his tune started changing. Republicans were more likely to be his political targets. On the surface, President Obama leans on Christie more than any other Governor. And Christie is every bit as willing to lean back. Christie hangs out with unions bosses and talks about how much they agree on most issues. He blasted the GOP when they wanted to provide money to Sandy, but not include waste for unrelated pet projects. He attacked conservatives over their opposition to expanding gun control. Christie simply appears on the surface to be a liberal Republican. But is he?
A Conservative Governor
Despite Christie's statements and behavior that often alienates conservatives (and rightly so), he is actually a relatively conservative Governor. Given what he has to deal with, his resume is quite impressive. He vetoed spending and helped close the state's budget deficit, lowered payroll taxes, fought the teachers' union, and vetoed gay-marriage legislation. Instead, he requested the legislature let the voters decide the issue through a referendum. And while he might say he agrees with global warming, he opposes enacting pointless laws that would do little more than hurt the economy. He is pro-life. Christie manages to be a conservative governor while side-stepping liberal positions without coming across as malevolent. His least fiscally-irresponsible and politically-driven move was to hold a multimillion dollar special election
when it could have coincided with his own and saved the voters time and money.
Christie is clearly in the top-tier of potential Republican candidates
even with a large chunk of conservatives opposing him. The reality remains there are a lot of moderate and liberal Republicans and Independents who will vote in the primaries who really like him. You might even get a sizable chunk of Democrats crossing party lines to vote for the governor if the Democrat race is over early. Early on he is in a four-way tie with Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul for the nomination. Many of the early voting states such as New Hampshire and Florida (pending Bush and Rubio runs) play into his favor. He will have no problem raising money. In other words, if you read political obituaries because of Christie's seemingly-counterproductive attitude, he is, like Obama, an astute politician. And so far, it's working for him.