Another emerging attempted purge of someone labelled a “RINO” for not towing the conservative line? Revenge because a GOPer dared to say something nice about President Barack Obama? It certainly sounds that way – and this very pointed, clearly intentional, most assuredly let’s-send-’em-a-message snub of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also suggests what could be in store if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush decides to run and doesn’t embrace the conservative agenda 100 percent or shows signs he’d be willing to reach across the aisle and not be on the partisan warpath 24/7. First Read:
Just months after their losses in the 2012 election, Republicans and conservatives are setting a vibrant — and crowded — stage at next month’s closely watched political cattle call.
The three-day gathering of the Conservative Political Action Committee, which begins March 14th just outside Washington, is expected to feature more than two dozen high-profile Republicans, including former Gov. Mitt Romney.
At least eight potential presidential contenders will be speaking at CPAC: Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
There will also be five former presidential candidates attending: Romney, Perry, Santorum, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich of Georgia, and former Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin of Alaska.
It will be Romney’s first public speech since his loss last November. He said in a statement that he looks “forward to saying thank you to the many friends and supporters who were instrumental in helping” his campaign.
One potential 2016 hopeful who won’t be there, however — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Despite being the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention and having a sky-high approval rating in the Garden State, CPAC officials told First Read Christie was not invited.
Christie rankled some on the right with his public support for President Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy in the weeks leading up to the 2012 election.
Wasn’t there supposed to be some kind of “rebranding” going on?
Sounds like the same, old 2012 brand to me. He who doesn’t display partisan hate, can’t get into the gate.
CNN also takes note and adds:
Many Republicans voiced anger at Christie for praising President Barack Obama’s response to Superstorm Sandy, which swept through his state days before last November’s election. Later, Christie publically blasted Republican lawmakers for stalling passage of emergency funds for Sandy victims.
The outspoken governor defended himself against charges he helped swing the election to Obama, however, saying on CNN that “When the president does things that deserve praise, I will give him praise. And when the president does things that deserve scorn, I’ll give him scorn.”
“I am not going to play politics with this issue, this is so much bigger than an election,” Christie continued. “When someone asks me an honest question, I give an honest answer: ‘How’s the president been to deal with?’ He’s been outstanding to deal with on this.”
And, indeed, Christie is getting a reputation as someone who is charting a — get ready, here it comes…that dirty word — moderate course. New Jersey’s Daily Record:
For a man who championed the Republican brand as keynote speaker at its national convention last year, Gov. Chris Christie has been spending a lot of time making nice with Democrats.
Most famously, Christie was complimentary of Democratic President Barack Obama’s response to superstorm Sandy just before last year’s election. He then almost as famously ripped House Speaker and fellow Republican John Boehner about playing politics with federal storm aid. Early on, his re-election campaign has consisted of endorsements by two unions and two Democratic mayors, as well as fundraisers in Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
“He’s the Democrats’ favorite Republican now, nationally, which is sort of goofy if you stop and think,” said Maurice Carroll, Quinnipiac University polling director. “Nobody ever thought that would happen.”
While Christie is walking the tightrope between both parties, he downplays any thought that he’s building a new strategy for the GOP.
“There are all these people in the Republican Party nationally who are staring at their navels trying to figure out what’s wrong with our party,” Christie said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our party.”
“The fact is that what people in this country want are less discussion of party and more discussion of results,” Christie said. “In New Jersey what we show is that the Republican Party can get results for the people who vote for us. Stop worrying about politics and speeches and all the rest of this stuff and start worrying about getting something done. And that will represent an exorcism of all this glum talk about our party and a resurrection of our party nationally.”
Christie’s emphasis on Democrats is partially about survival, as the state has nearly 703,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. No GOP candidate has received 50 percent of the statewide vote in an election since 1985. And it’s partially about him showing off support from groups that stuck with then-Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, four years ago — to impress voters, as well as drive Democrats crazy.
But it’s this reaching across the aisle, trying to engage and woo Democrats rather than demonize them all as “libruls” or people all on welfare with insidious motives that angers some conservatives.
He may be another example of someone who could win a general election but has little prospect of gaining his party’s nomination — except for one fact: reports suggest Democrats are getting ready to try and paint him as a far right conservative. If that happens, they’ll do more to get him in the good graces of his own party than anything Christie himself may do or say.
UPDATE 2: Read this roundup at The Week that contains some Tweets and expressions of dismay from many, including conservative Republicans.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.