New Jersey Governor Chris Christie currently has two distinctions: first, he’s the most popular Republican in the country; and two, he won’t be speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the right wing’s annual dog-and-pony show.
The justification for snubbing the Republican governor of a blue state who has a 74 percent approval rating?
“CPAC is to conservative politics what all-star games are to professional athletes,” writes Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union, the group that organizes CPAC. “You get invited to speak amongst literally thousands of potential candidates. Governor Christie was invited to CPAC last year because he did a great job in N.J. facing up to the teachers unions, balancing the budget and cutting debt. This past year he strongly advocated for the passage of a $60+ billion pork barrel bill, containing only $9 billion in disaster assistance and he signed up with the federal government to expand Medicaid at a time when his state can ill afford it, so he was not invited to speak.”
In other words, by the criteria of the far right, Christie had a bad year.
But Cardenas adds that all is not lost for the governor: “Hopefully he will be back in top form next year. We would be delighted to invite him again.”
Who in the conservative firmament had a good year in 2012, thus warranting a coveted speaking spot at CPAC? The ACU’s Web site lists the featured speakers. Sarah Palin is prominently displayed. Her last political move was to resign as governor of Alaska.
Also speaking: Mitt Romney, who lost a winnable presidential election. Then there’s Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry, all of whom tripped up in the Republican 2012 primaries. Also Allen West, who was defeated for reelection in a Florida congressional district. And Carly Fiorina, whose vast wealth could not buy a Senate seat from California.
Wayne LaPierre and David Keene, leaders of the National Rifle Association, will be in attendance, reassuring all Americans of their Second Amendment rights.
Other featured speakers: Crystal Wright, T.W. Shannon, Katie Pavlich, Wayne Allen Root, Art Linares, Sonnie Johnson, Chelsea Henry. (I don’t know who they are either.)
Conservatives may be angry at Christie for supporting emergency relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy (his state was hit hard, after all) and for signing up for Medicaid expansion (so have Rick Scott of Florida Jan Brewer of Arizona, among other Republican governors). But Christie’s real sin was to praise President Obama for his rapid response to Sandy’s devastation. Worse yet, Christie literally and figuratively hugged the president who is hated by many on the right. Even worse yet was the timing of the hug, coming just days before the election.
Christie’s exclusion from CPAC comes as some Republicans, facing the implications of their 2012 electoral rout, are calling for the party to be more inclusive. Here’s the conservative spin of Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe: "Chris Christie is sitting at a 74% approval rating in New Jersey. And I thought it was so funny, someone last night said, 'you know, Chris Christie doesn't have a future inside the Republican party,' and I started laughing. This Republican party, this part of the Republican party that's lost 5 out of the 6 presidential elections, this part of the Republican party doesn't have a future in the Republican party. Chris Christie's future? Pretty damn bright.”
As for the governor, who’s frequently mentioned as a GOP 2016 contender, he professes to be unfazed by the controversy. “I didn’t know that I hadn’t been invited to CPAC until two days ago when I saw it in the news,” Christie told supporters.
The governor says he has other priorities: “I can’t sweat the small stuff. I’ve got a state to rebuild.”
The often volatile Christie has no hard feelings: "Listen, I wish then all the best. They're going to have their conference, they're going to have a bunch of people speaking there. That's their call... It's not like I'm lacking for invitations to speak around the country.”