“Chris Christie… he’s so hot right now.” I hear Zoolander’s prophetic words every time I turn on cable news and see pundits drooling over the all-but-guaranteed Chris Christie campaign for President.
Nevermind that he has an economically-depressed state to govern, or that sore residents are fuming mad about the delayed help reaching Superstorm Sandy victims. Christie is the hot topic, mainly because he’s bucking a recent trend in the Republican party – he’s electable.
As the beltway logic goes, the GOP went through its “Christine O’Donnell can win an election” phase and realized that all the talk about masturbation, rape and reverse-racism towards whites wasn’t pushing the party forward. So we can all expect a wave of new candidates that remain fiscally conservative, but have cooled it a bit on all the stuff you do in the privacy of your own home.
Yeah right, and the Buffalo Bills will win a Super Bowl in my lifetime.
One way that wishful thinking could be tested right here in Delaware would be for the party to encourage Alan Levin, the former head of the now-defunct Happy Harry’s drug store chain and current head of the Delaware Economic Development Office, to take a stab at running for Governor (full disclosure: I worked for Levin in my early years at Happy Harry’s). He’s worked with a Democrat for the past five years, is firmly entrenched in Delaware politics and as far as I know, hasn’t mentioned God and rape in a single sentence together.
Although Delaware is an overwhelmingly blue state, Levin has the personal wealth, bipartisan connections and local roots to make a successful run. His largest weakness – Delaware’s bet on Fisker – would be mitigated if he were to run against current Lt. Governor Matt Denn, who makes the term “relative unknown” the largest understatement in state politics. Just recently, Denn (who I often draw in a suit 2-times his size) was completely forgotten in recent survey of the state’s most favorable politicians. To put it into perspective, Chip “I’ll pay for my own waffles” Flowers even made the list.
In order to make a run for Governor, Levin would have to survive the GOP primary, which only registered Republicans are allowed to vote in and would undoubtedly put him up against right-wing crackpots in the mold of Facebook spammer Mike Protack. But the movement towards more social moderation paired with Levin’s checkbook and name-brand awareness (can anyone name Gov. Markell’s Republican opponent in 2012?) would all but guarantee Levin a win.
If Levin did win, I’m sure he’d be labeled a RINO (Republican in name only – aren’t they so clever?) and lambasted by the tea party, but imagine a GOP where two Republican governors ran two of the most liberal states on the east coast at the same time? That’s something that hasn’t happened since the mid-1980s, when Republicans Tom Kean Sr. and Mike Castle ran New Jersey and Delaware, respectfully.
Regardless of Levin’s choice, Delaware has proven it’s ahead of the curve against extremist GOP candidates. In 2012, Tom Kovach did manage to convincingly win the Republican Congressional Primary against tea party lovebird Rose Izzo (who as of Wednesday is still sending fundraising tweets from her campaign web site).
So will Levin run for Governor? Who knows. One thing for certain is Delaware has had its fill of witches and so-called “Liberty Conservatives.” Levin could take advantage of a national narrative towards bipartisanship and political moderation, and at the same time help rejuvenate a tired and depleted Republican bench. It’s enough to have the GOP singing that old jingle, “Happy Harry’s has it!”
Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe, and check out more of his work at RobTornoe.com.