What to do with Christie…


Romney-Ryan, McCain-Palin, Dole-Kemp. What do these three things all have in common?

A few things actually. First, they are all Republican presidential tickets (2012, 2008, and 1996, respectively.) They also feature the same general formula; a moderate at the top of the ticket that no one is excited about voting for, and a conservative fire-brand as the Vice-Presidential nominee who is brought on to “excite the base.” Establishment Republicans are absolutely in love with this model!

However, there is one other thing that these tickets all have in common; they all lost.

Now, let’s contrast this losing model with one that actually won an election; the Reagan-Bush ticket.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated George H.W. Bush in the Republican primary for the presidency. During the course of this primary, there was plenty of trash talk to go around (most famously, Bush’s comment referring to Reagan’s economic policies as “voodoo economics.”) However, after everything was said and done, Reagan emerged as the Republican nominee for the presidency, but George H.W. Bush received the second highest amount of delegates at the Republican National convention. Reagan would then nominate Bush as his running mate, and the rest is history.

There are three key factors that make this a winning formula:

  1. It United the Party. Conservatives naturally took to Reagan and Republican moderates favored Bush, but by having them working together showed that the Republican Party as whole had joined forces to defeat Jimmy Carter and take back the White House. Romney could have done the same with Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich just as John McCain could have with Mike Huckabee, but they both chose to a risk on young, lesser known politicians. We all know how that turned out.
  2. It Featured a Conservative at the TOP of the Ticket. Conservatives don’t vote for the bottom of the ticket. Moderates, on the other hand, are easier to please. Having a strong, conservative candidate at the top of the ticket, and a competent, likable moderate at the bottom of the ticket proved to be an effective strategy for pleasing the Republican base and reaching out to moderates/independents.
  3. Both Individuals Could be Seen as ‘Presidential. Reagan was the Governor of California and President of the Screen Actors Guild, and Bush was a two term Congressman, chairman of the RNC, Director of the CIA, and Ambassador to the United Nations. They were both qualified to be president. On the other hand, Jack Kemp and Paul Ryan were nominated as VP as members of the House of Representatives and Sarah Palin was in the middle of serving her first term as Governor of Alaska. None of these three individuals were ready to be President of the United States when they were nominated as Vice-President, regardless of their personal popularity.

What does all of this have to do with Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey? Let me explain.

Chris Christie is going to run for president. It’s no secret.  The real question is, can he win a Republican primary? I would have to say; no. His gun-control legislation, embracing of President Obama, and his criticism of Tea Party favorites like Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, among other issues, have permanently earned Governor Christie a permanent “RINO” label from conservatives that make up the majority of the Republican party’s primary voters. The rise and influence of the Tea Party has also made Christie’s chances of snagging the nomination even slimmer. However, he will come close. Governor Christie will start out in 2016 as the favorite of the GOP establishment, moderate, and RINO factions of the Republican Party and this will leave him, in my theory, coming in second place at the national convention. This is setting up the actual presidential nominee, whether it be Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker or any other conservative, with the perfect opportunity to construct a presidential ticket with the same winning formula that swept Reagan-Bush to victory with the perfect Vice-Presidential candidate.

Having a Tea Party candidate at the top of the 2016 ticket with Chris Christie as VP would be brilliant for all the reasons Reagan-Bush was such a success; it would unite Tea Party conservatives and Establishment moderates, it would finally give us a Tea Party presidential nominee, and, assuming the nominee is competent, give America two individuals that are considered qualified to be president (whether we like him or not, once he is re-elected, Chris Christie will be a two term Governor of a Democrat state, which makes him plenty qualified.)

Governor Christie would also serve several of the unofficial roles of a VP very well. For instance;

  1. “Attack Dog”– With Christie’s loud and confrontational style, he is uniquely qualified to bash whoever the Democrat nominee ends up being. This is no small task in a campaign.
  2. “Ticket Balancer”– Hailing from a north-east, blue state, Christie would provide geographical diversity to most of the conservatives that are thought to be looking at a presidential run, almost all of whom come from deep-red states. Think, Ted Cruz and Rick Perry (Texas,) Rand Paul (Kentucky,) Mike Lee (Utah,) Bobby Jindal (Louisiana,) or Nikki Haley (South Carolina) to name a few.
  3. “Opening the Map”– With Christie’s extreme popularity , there is a slim yet real chance that New Jersey could be up for grabs in 2016 if the Governor is on the ticket. Although, realistically, Christie would probably be seen as more of an asset in swing-states like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Michigan, due to the liberal leanings of these particular states.

Also, the vice president’s actual job, being the presiding officer of the Senate, would be a good fit for Christie as well considering his experience working with Republicans and Democrats in New Jersey.

Whatever happens between now and 2016 is anyone’s guess, but there is one thing you can count one; Chris Christie will play a role in deciding who controls the White House in 2016. We as a party are in desperate need of nominating a strong, conservative to take back the presidency, not another moderate. Whoever ends up winning the nomination, however, will have a decision to make; will we unite for victory, or are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the Romney-McCain-Doles of the past?

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr – (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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