Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Can't Run for President like It's Still 2009

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Can't Run for President like It's Still 2009

Article excerpt

CHRIS CHRISTIE effectively ran for governor in 2009 by never saying what he would do if elected. There were no details about programs or priorities. Instead, he campaigned much as Doug Forrester did in 2002 when he ran for U.S. Senate. The difference was Forrester had the luck of Jonah in the whale while Christie won the Irish Sweepstakes.

For those who have forgotten, in 2002 Republican Forrester ran against Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli. Forrester's message was simple: I'm not Torricelli.

The senator was facing a number of ethical scandals and dropping in the polls like a mallard on "Duck Dynasty." Rather than experience a humiliating loss, Torricelli dropped out, and, through a lucky legal twist, Frank Lautenberg came out of retirement to reclaim a seat in the Senate.

Forrester's campaign was built on the anti-Torricelli message, and when there was no longer a Torricelli in the game, he had nothing else. In 2009, Christie campaigned under the "Not Corzine" banner. The Democratic governor was not popular and did not have the deep-root connections with the state's Democratic powerbrokers to overcome the Christie charisma.

Corzine went down to defeat, and Christie, without plans or a detailed agenda, became governor.

Now a national-stage Christie is considering a run for president. Last week, he was in Florida to celebrate Republican victories with the Republican Governors Association, wins credited to Christie's campaigning and fundraising abilities. As reported by my colleague Charles Stile, when asked about his negative assessment of President Obama, Christie said, "I have every citizen's right to criticize their president if they think they are wrong. Just because I'm governor and someday might run for president doesn't give away my right to [criticize]."

That is very true. But criticism without offering a plan sounds very much like the Republican House of Representatives. As a U.S. attorney, Christie could say he didn't know enough about state government to offer concrete alternatives to Corzine.

His 2009 campaign playbook had only one play: No details, just run like crazy until Election Day. Now, Christie is a two-term governor. If he has nothing to add to the immigration conversation, it means he really has nothing to add to the immigration conversation, and that is not going to play well.

Christie signed a New Jersey version of a Dream Act, legislation that enables some New Jersey-raised undocumented students to attend state universities. It was a courageous decision. Yet Christie may pull a Mitt Romney -- a reference to the former governor of Massachusetts and failed presidential candidate who backed away from the progressive health care initiative he shepherded in Massachusetts because it was the basis for the Affordable Care Act, anathema to conservative Republicans. …

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