New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie laid out a plan in a speech to the members of the Republican National Committee on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 based on the his re-election bid, that the Republicans can use as a model to win back the White House. The RNC members gathered in Boston this week for their summer meeting; with speeches from up and coming to established Republicans, the goal was the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 presidential campaign. Christie at this point in the game seems to many within the party as their best hope to win in 2016, and so apparently does Christie.
The Republican leaders are having their summer meeting from Aug. 14-16 in Boston. The theme for the meeting at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel was "Making It Happen." The audience consisted of the party establishment, the most important group that any potential candidate looks to gain acceptance from, in order to make the path to the nomination easier.
Christie, 50 delivered his speech at a luncheon to 168 Republicans leaders in the hotel's Grand Ballroom. He spent most of his 41-minute speech discussing his political career and accomplishments as a Republican governor in New Jersey, in the northeast, where Republicans are a rare commodity. He criticized potential rivals including Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), with whom he had a public feud two weeks ago over ideological issues. Most importantly he discussed his own re-election plan as governor and how it can be used a model for the GOP in 2016. Christie is running for a second term as New Jersey's governor, in an election that will be held this November.
The Governor portrayed himself as the main candidate, the one to beat. Christie requested that the speech be closed to the press and he refused to speak to press or take questions afterwards, but those in attendance leaked out the contents of Christie's remarks. His humorous speech packed lots of punch, the theme and focus was about winning, the GOP winning and Christie as a winner.
Gov. Christie confidently declared; "I'm in this business to win. I don't know why you're in it…I think that we have some folks that believe that our job is to be college professors. Now college professors are fine, I guess. You know, college professors basically spout out ideas that nobody ever does anything about. For our ideas to matter, we have to win because, if we don't win, we don't govern. And if we don't govern, all we do is shout into the wind. So I am going to do anything I need to do to win!"
Referring to his comments about President Obama, Superstorm Sandy and the 2012 election, Christie replied to his critics; "I'm not going to be one of those people who are navel gazing. Everybody, it's nine months now since the national elections! It's time to get over it, ok?"
The New Jersey Governor discussed how the GOP focuses more on ideology and less on the winning, saying; There [is] nothing wrong with our principles. The problem is we've got to focus on winning again. This is not an academic exercise, everybody. There's too much at stake for this to be an academic exercise."
Gov. Christie discussed his first major battle as governor with labor unions, and particularly his battle with the New Jersey Education Association, that had his approval rating plummeting, still he stood his ground and won. He recounted the events with a moral that the GOP can use in their road map, he said; "You got two choices as governor: you either sidle up next to 'em [and] whisper sweet nothings in their ear and try to hope they just don't punch you. Or the second alternative is: you punch them first!" Christie now has over 20 unions endorsing him.
He also discussed his re-election bid, and explained how the lessons from his campaign can be applied to the GOP; "We're going to learn things this year that we're going to be able to apply to the races we have in 2014 and beyond."
He recounted how he has wooed and gained support and endorsement from Democrats, women, and minority groups. Support from groups that Republicans need to sway in the next election, and that they are losing out to the Democrats in the last two elections. He exclaimed; "This is New Jersey. This is not the heartland of Republican politics."
Christie spoke of garnering the Hispanic vote; "This year for governor I've been endorsed by the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, the largest Latino political group in the state and they've never before endorsed a Republican for statewide office."
The New Jersey Governor also discussed being endorsed by African-American community leaders, saying; "I've been endorsed by the executive director of the Black Ministers Council and 24 intercity African-American ministers. If you listen to the national media, you'd think this could never happen, that African-American leaders of this country will never stand with Republicans. We're going to show you in New Jersey this year that that is simply not true."
Gov. Christie also exclaimed that he is polling high among women as well, even though the Democratic candidate is a woman, Barbara Buono. He stated; "Lots of folks talk in our party about a gender gap, and we have a gender gap in New Jersey too. The last public poll showed that I'm winning women 59 to 30 in New Jersey. We have a gender gap, a +29 gender gap in New Jersey. And, by the way, I'm running against a female opponent!"
Christie concluded by telling RNC leaders, the formula for winning and choosing a candidate. He said; "Our party's got to get back to looking people in the eye, not try to figure out what they want to hear. I tell folks in my state all the time if you're looking for the candidate you agree with 100 percent of the time, go home and look in the mirror. You're it. You're the only person you agree with 100 percent of the time, alright? If that's the litmus test, forget it!"
The reaction of the RNC leaders at the luncheon was that Christie definitely sounded and looked like a potential candidate who is seriously intending to run. Ron Kaufman, a Massachusetts Republican National Committeeman, who also served as an advisor for former President George W. Bush, commented on Christie, his election plan and as a candidate. Speaking of his plan, he said; "His message was simple: 'Listen, you stick to our values, (be) straightforward about them, you tell voters how we feel and why we're doing what we're doing, you can't lose.'"
Kaufman also commended Christie's ability to command a room ""People love that kind of candor… His style is really good. It works in New Jersey, it works in this room." Commenting on Christie as a candidate, Kaufman praised him, but did not endorse him, still leaving the door open, just a bit to other candidates; "I've known Christie forever and he absolutely would be a great candidate, but we have lots of good candidates."
The Republican chairman from Texas, Steve Munisteri said that Christie sounded confident, with the definite intention of running in 2016. Munisteri analyzed the speech, saying; "I took all that to mean, 'I'm going to run in 2016 and I've demonstrated a winning formula. If you want to win and don't just care about ideology, I'm your candidate,'"
The polls agree; Christie is leading in all the pre-primary polls of Republican candidates, and is the "hottest" politician in the country at the moment. A WMUR-TV poll of the potential Republican candidates conducted by University of New Hampshire Survey Center with the results released on Aug, 8, 2013 has Christie leading with 21 percent, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is in second place with 16 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 10 percent, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan with 8 percent, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at fifth place with 6 percent.
Christie also is ranking high among American politicians in general, whether Republican or Democrat. Christie topped the rankings of a Quinnipiac University poll of the "hottest politicians," at 53.1 degrees, the poll functions as a "thermometer of voters attitudes towards the nation's major political figures."
Still Christie has a lot fence mending to make with Republicans for his often close associations with Democrats, a quality that might help his popular appeal, but has caused a strain in the Republican Party. His praise for President Barack Obama's response to Superstorm Sandy last fall, a week before the 2012 Presidential election caused many Republicans to believe Christie tipped the scale in Obama's direction, causing the Republicans and candidate Mitt Romney to lose out on the White House in what had been until that point a close race. He has argued with Congressional Republicans for relief aid, yet again hosted President Obama this past May, touring together New Jersey's Sandy recovery, and Christie made an appearance with a former Democratic President, Bill Clinton when he spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting, just in June.
The presidential campaign seasons begin earlier and earlier each cycle. So early on in the game it is hard to determine who will eventually be the party's candidate for the presidential election. Early leads sometimes evaporate, while sometimes it seems from the start that a candidate inevitably will become the nominee. It is still a long time until the primary season begins, polls fluctuates and events until then can change the course of who will win the nomination. One thing is for certain, Christie sounded like a winner at the RNC summer meeting.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.