Chris Christie Versus The Republican Party

By: CBS, Posted by Chris Fisher
By: CBS, Posted by Chris Fisher

CBS -- The 2016 election is three years away but the war is already in full swing.

That is, the war between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the other Republicans he could face in the 2016 Republican primary.

Fresh off a successful re-election bid in the New Jersey governor's race, Christie made the rounds on the Sunday political talk shows to share his winning secrets with the rest of the GOP. The way he tells it, ideological purity just doesn't hold a candle to his results-oriented brand of Republicanism.

"The lesson is to govern and to show up," he told CBS' Norah O'Donnell in an appearance on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "Let me explain what I mean. On governing, it's about doing things, accomplishing things, reaching across the aisle and crafting accomplishments."

"And showing up," he added. "What I mean by that is you can't just show up six months before an election and then groups, who have not normally voted for you and expect that they are going to vote for you...you go there, you listen and you present your views and that's the way you bring people into your movement."

But other potential 2016 contenders, particularly Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, aren't sold on Christie's claim to know how the party can win another election.

When Perry was asked on ABC's "This Week" whether Christie was a "true conservative governor," Perry responded, "He was a successful governor in New Jersey. Now does that transcend to the country? We'll see in later years and months to come."

"We're all different states. Is a conservative in New Jersey a conservative in the rest of the country?" Perry pondered. "We'll have that discussion at the appropriate time."

Over on "Fox News Sunday," host Chris Wallace grilled Christie on a variety of topics that Republican primary voters might be concerned about: his stances on citizenship for illegal immigrants as part of immigration reform ("What I favor is fixing a broken system," Christie said) and gun control ("We want to control violence. And some of that may involve firearms, but a lot of it doesn't.")

Wallace pointed out that Christie had called Paul's libertarian stance on national security issues "very dangerous" and labeled Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's push to shut down the government in order to defund Obamacare a "monumental failure."

Just what, Wallace asked, does Christie think of those two?

"Listen, you know what, Chris -- what I am not going to get into is the Washington, D.C. game that you're trying to get me into. I'm the governor of New Jersey, and I'm focused on getting things done, and I think that's why we got 61 percent of the vote on Tuesday night, because I'll work with anyone and everyone who is willing to work with me, consistent with my principles, and the principles that were just affirmed by 61 percent of the voters," Christie said. "The rest of this stuff is just the game that gets played in Washington, which is why people hate Washington, D.C. That kind of garbage is why people don't like it, so I'm not going to get into that."

In other words, taking seriously any criticism lobbed his way from Washington is a waste of Christie's time.

Christie's battles with Cruz, Paul, Perry and others are the most prominent flashpoint in a larger war between the moderate and conservative factions of the GOP. Christie has never been known to shy away from a good fight, be it with the teachers' unions in New Jersey or fellow Republicans in D.C. He arguably added fuel to the fire with a speech to the Republican National Committee in August where he had mostly disdain for the ideological fealty demanded by many of his colleagues.

"We are not a debating society," Christie said. "We are a political operation that needs to win."

To his colleagues, statements like those are reason enough to slap Christie with a death label in the GOP: moderate.

"I think the Republican Party is a big party, and we need moderates like Chris Christie who can win in New Jersey," Paul told CNN last week. "What that means about the national party, I'm not sure there's an answer. But we do need moderates like Chris Christie in the party."

And after Christie's landslide 60-39 percent victory in the election, his colleagues in Washington offered only lukewarm - or backhanded - praise.

"I think it is terrific that he is brash, that he is outspoken, and that he won his race," Cruz told ABC News. "But I think we need more leaders in Washington with the courage to stand for principle. And in particular, Obamacare is not working."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, once a tea party darling in Florida, warned against following Christie's receipt for success. "I think we need to understand that some of these races don't apply to future races," he told CNN.

Does Christie have any allies in the fight? The most prominent is Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and loser in the 2012 election.

"Chris, by the way, could easily become our nominee and save our party and help get this nation on the right track again," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" last week.


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