When Examiner published an article last week detailing how Chris Christie was the current Republican frontrunner for the 2016 elections as well as the only Republican who currently beats the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, it set off a firestorm of indignation among some conservatives. Many deride Christie as a “RINO” who would be almost as bad as Clinton. Others go further and claim that Christie is a Democrat in disguise. A number of angry conservatives say that Christie is dead to them.
A good place to start when trying to determine whether a Republican is a RINO is the American Conservative Union. The ACU rates members of Congress and state legislatures by their votes and determines whether they are “true conservatives” or not. In a previous article, Examiner found that most Republicans who are commonly labeled RINOs easily pass Ronald Reagan’s 80 percent rule. The ACU does not rate governors, however, so one must examine Gov. Christie’s record in New Jersey.
There are many aspects of Christie’s career that conservatives can cheer. The governor seems to be an authentic fiscal conservative. John Nichols of The Nation, a liberal site, says that Christie is in the mold of Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Nichols cites a long list of complaints that include raising the retirement age for state employees and increasing their required contribution for insurance and retirement plans, opposing tax increases on the wealthy, vetoing minimum wage hikes and pay equity bills, and trimming state budgets. Christie has taken on New Jersey’s public employee unions and won. One teacher’s union leader even publicly wished him dead in a tasteless joke in 2009.
Christie has not raised taxes during his time as governor. Politifact does note that he cut several tax credits such as the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Homestead Benefit, which provides a credit on property insurance. The EITC is a refundable credit that can be paid out to individual filers even if they have no tax liability. Politifact also confirmed that Christie balanced New Jersey’s budget as its constitution requires. Christie has also taken steps to fix New Jersey’s underfunded pension program according to the Trentonian. New Jersey’s pension problems are not resolved, but underfunded pensions are a national crisis that many states and cities have not even begun to address according to CNBC.
Christie is pro-life. In 2011, New Jersey News described Christie’s remarks before a pro-life rally at the statehouse in which he said that “every life is precious and a gift from God” and noted that he had cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Christie urged the activists “to speak calmly and clearly and forthrightly for the idea that this is an issue whose time has come.” Salon describes Christie’s conversion from a “non-thinking pro-choice person, kind of the default position” when he heard his unborn daughter’s heartbeat as seemingly much more genuine than Mitt Romney’s.
Christie’s appeal to minorities is also a very good thing for conservatives. As reported by Examiner after his re-election victory, exit polls from New Jersey show that Gov. Christie made deep inroads into Barack Obama’s core constituencies. Christie won female voters by 15 percent even though the Democratic candidate, Barbara Buono, was a woman. He also won Hispanic voters outright with 51 percent (compared to Buono’s 45 percent). Although Christie did not win the black vote, at 21 percent his percentage of the black vote was three times greater than Romney’s. A successful Republican presidential candidate will have to appeal to minority voters.
With respect to global warming and climate change, the Huffington Post noted that when Christie ran for governor in 2009, he had “an impressive green agenda” on his website according to the New Jersey Environmental Federation, but that it has remained only on the website. Since then, he told a town hall meeting in 2010 that he was “a little skeptical” that humans are responsible for climate change. The Post story goes on to say that Christie withdrew New Jersey from the Northeast’s regional cap-and-trade plan, weakened the state’s renewable energy standard and used $210 million from the state’s clean energy fund to balance the budget. On the other hand, Christie opposed oil drilling and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities off the New Jersey coast.
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