Conservative columnist Ross Douthat issues four cautions to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for a potential 2016 Presidential run in The New York Times.
Don’t be Jon Huntsman. For the next two years, you’re going to be hailed up and down the Acela Corridor as the Great Moderate Hope, the anti-Tea Party candidate, the Man Who Is Not Ted Cruz. But you can’t actively embrace that part, or give off the impression — as Huntsman did, obviously and fatally — that you agree with the media that your party’s full of rubes and cranks.
Don’t be Rudy Giuliani. You probably think you wouldn’t have Rudy’s problems in a Republican primary. Yes, you’re both combative Northeasterners from the party’s moderate flank, but unlike the former mayor you aren’t a social liberal with a public history of adultery (and a few drag performances thrown in). But what felled Giuliani in 2008 wasn’t just “values” issues. It was the former mayor’s apparent belief that being a national hero was a sufficient qualification to be president — that he could just show up, be “Rudy,” and the rest would take care of itself.
Don’t assume that what worked in Jersey will work nationally. In state-of-the-party arguments, you and your fellow Republican governors love to contrast your successes with the national party’s struggles. But those successes have been made possible by crucial differences between state-level issues and national ones. In New Jersey, for instance, you’ve been able to successfully isolate public-sector unions, portraying them as drains on middle-class tax dollars and enemies of the common good. But in national budget debates, the biggest issues are popular entitlement programs, not teacher salaries or bureaucrats’ health benefits. And you probably aren’t going to win the presidency wagging your finger at Social Security recipients, or painting the poor and elderly as dangerous special-interest groups.
Don’t always listen to your donors. As a standard-bearer for pragmatic, non-apocalyptic Republicanism who also hails from a state where lots of rich Wall Streeters sleep at night, you’re going to be awash in money, and with it will come lots of unsolicited advice. Some will be good: the Republican donor class has a better handle on certain political realities than the Tea Party. But some will be terrible, because the right’s donors are loath to acknowledge that their party’s biggest problem isn’t gay marriage or immigration or even the disastrous government shutdown. It’s a brand identity, cemented by Mitt Romney’s persona and “47 percent” remark, as the handmaiden of Big Business and the rich.
Cross-posted from The Sensible Center