Saturday, September 4, 2010

Christie Moves

The blogosphere's been buzzing for the past few days about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's endorsement of Mike Castle. This is a huge get for Castle, as Christie is a grass-roots folk hero for many on the right. Christie's endorsement reveals a few interesting things about the New Jersey governor and the dynamic of the (now escalating) Delaware Republican Senate primary race.
  • Christie knows what it takes to win as a Republican in Democratic-leaning states. Christie’s been able to fight hard for conservative causes in New Jersey, but he knows when not to go too far. In his epic budget battle, Christie pressed Democrats in the state legislature to the breaking point and won. Part of Christie’s success depended upon picking battles. Though Christie has a huge fan base among the deeply Republican parts of the blogosphere, he realizes that, to use the somewhat hackneyed phrase, politics is the art of the possible.
  • This endorsement advances Christie as a national figure. Many big-name Republicans (such as Sarah Palin) have stayed out of this primary campaign, giving Christie an opportunity. Christie’s popularity amongst conservatives gives him a valuable opportunity to reach out and advocate on behalf of moderate Republicans; with a reputation of being a rock-ribbed conservative, Christie can deflect claims that he’s a treacherous RINO sellout. Moderate Republicans could be a key voting bloc were Christie to make a bid for higher office. Especially if Castle wins the general election (a very good bet) after winning the primary, this endorsement will burnish Christie’s record of picking winners.
  • Christie knows Castle is a strong candidate in the general election. He’s led in polls since the beginning of this race. He’s won race after race after race in Delaware. This looks like the first real chance for Republicans to gain a Senate seat in Delaware since Republican incumbent Bill Roth lost in 2000 to Tom Carper. Roth wasn't exactly a fire-breathing right-winger, but he was an ally of fiscal conservatives and was key in putting forward a number of important reforms, including the tax cuts of 1981.
  • Republicanism in the mid-Atlantic states has taken a beating over the decade or so and may have reached its nadir in 2006. Castle’s election as senator would help rebuild the fortunes of Eastern Seaboard Republicans, a group that could use all of the support it can get. For Republicans to create an enduring majority that can accomplish long-lasting reforms, it will be crucial for them to have significant presences in all regions of the country. Look at the current Democratic majority in the House and Senate: it draws from every part of the country, from the West Coast to the South to the interior West to the Northeast. To get big numbers in the Senate, which will be key for passage of many important reforms, Republicans will need not only a deep but a broad well of potential support.
Increasing acrimony in this race could be damaging to Republican fortunes in the general. Castle's circulation of Christie's endorsement may be an attempt to shut down the rising anti-Castle sentiment before it gets too virulent.

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