Christie too moderate for today’s national GOP

The once-hyped Chris Christie, supposed darling of the right, got left at the altar on Saturday when Mitt Romney decided to name Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

The once-hyped Chris Christie, supposed darling of the right, got left at the altar on Saturday when Mitt Romney decided to name Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.

The choice left me with a lot of questions — is Romney going to run on Ryan’s budget? Will Ayn Rand be mentioned in this campaign as much as Bill Ayres was in the last? How many years of tax returns will Paul Ryan be releasing? 

Drawing political cartoons in New Jersey, I’m keenly aware of the missed comedic opportunity of Christie not being selected as Romney’s VP.

Yes, Paul Ryan will be fun to draw with those big ears, baby blue eyes and nearly permanent five-o’clock shadow. But Christie is cartooning gold, and placed on a national stage, it would have been dynamite. 

But covering Christie locally makes me understand how popular he is with the GOP base. He’s practically a rock star! So why wouldn’t Mitt choose him as his running mate?

 Because Christie is too moderate for today’s Republican party.

Sure, he’s adored by crowds of Republicans — now. But that’s because folks in Iowa or Florida don’t know him as well as we do. They love his confrontational style and are fans of his YouTube videos, and if you’re a conservative and hear he took on teachers unions, cut taxes for the rich, and vetoed gay marriage, how couldn’t you be in love? 

Christie remains very popular among voters in a state that tends to be very, very blue. Obviously he’s doing more than keeping his sometimes-simple minded base happy. The fact is it’s Christie’s ability to attract independent voters that makes the whole “I’m an angry Jersey guy” act work.

Gay marriage

Take for instance his stance on gay marriage. Yes, he vetoed the legislature’s bill that would have made same sex marriage legal in New Jersey. But then he went and made conservatives in the state nuts by nominating Bruce Harris to the state Supreme Court. Harris is not only openly gay, but he’s been an outspoken advocate for gay marriage, and with today’s GOP, you’re guilty by association (or in this case, nomination).

Climate change

Christie has also been somewhat sane on the topic of global climate change. These days, just accepting the overwhelming scientific data alone is controversial for Republicans, but Christie went one step further and actually conceded humans are playing a role in these changes.

“When you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts,” Christie said.

In an attempt to satisfy the base, he pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. But by merely stating humans contribute to climate change, he might have alienated a Republican Base already ambivalent about Romney’s bona fides. 

Christie also took to task many Republicans who decided to make an issue out of a mosque being built near Ground Zero in Manhattan. He called them out for using the issues as a “political football” to exploit anti-Muslim emotions, something today’s GOP does instinctively. He also stood up to the “crazies” when he defended his appointment of a Muslim attorney to a judgeship, not something that sits well with the party’s Tea Party base.

Obamacare

Next comes ObamaCare, You know, that dirty, despicable socialist plot to extend health insurance to millions? Well, Romney wants to veto it on day one (I’m guessing he hasn’t figured out what he’ll tell parents when their kids are kicked off their insurance), and Christie is no fan of the legislation. He even vetoed the bill that would have set up an online health exchange in New Jersey.

But, unlike over conservative governors, Christie declined to take part in a lawsuit against the Affordable Health Care Act, which is tantamount to believing in evolution to a rabid right wing fond of placing dinosaurs and cavemen together. Come to think of it, Christie hasn’t come out in favor of creationism, so there’s something else for the right wing to hate him on.

Yes, Christie can be annoying with all his YouTube recorded tough talk, but deep down he’s just a moderate Republican in a Democratic state. And while he can be a bully on certain issues and one-sided on others, he’s been able to do the one thing today’s GOP despises most — compromise with the other side.

 

Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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