12.20.13 10:35 AM ET
Christie and Immigration, the Shock Troops and the In Crowd
So Chris Christie is going to sign a Dream Act for New Jersey, which would allow undocumented immigrants--not just their children--to receive in-state tuition. Christie had said during his reelection campaign that he'd support this once another provision, one that would have provided state aid in some cases, was removed, and it was. This is Christie's first big taking of a position on an immigration issue.
From a 2016 perspective, this was the smart and basically the only move. If he opposed it he'd look like Mitt Romney used to look: afraid of the howlers on the far right, willing to do anything to placate them. If Christie suddenly started behaving like that, it would be death. The main thing he has going for him is the "he's his own man" narrative, which will contrast very favorably to Romney. I think everyone knows this. Even the way-out-there wingers know it. They will understand that a few heterodoxies are just part of the Christie package. And, of course, they understand that they need to do better with Latino voters.
This will put Christie in the enviable position, come the second half of 2015, of standing up before audiences in Ames and Waterloo and saying defiantly that he is who he is and the Republican Party should be big enough to embrace competing views etc etc etc. The media will eat it up. Eat it up.
If Christie plays his cards right, as he does here, he'll be the clear media darling of 2016 among the Morning Joe In Crowd. Those people don't want Hillary. They want a Hillary slayer. It's a better story. They'll be tired of liberal harpies after eight years of a Democratic administration. They'll fool themselves into thinking that Christie has the potential to unite the country in a way the divisive Hillary doesn't.
In a maddeningly paradoxical way, they will be correct, but only because conservatives so seethe with hatred of Clinton that they'll behave under her adminstration the way they're behaving now with respect to Obama, and Democrats won't behave that way during a Christie regime with anywhere near the intensity, as they didn't during Bush's tenure.
Now. How big a thorn in his side will the dead-enders be? That's the key question, and it's hard to say. But I don't think very big, really. As long as polls show him and him alone among GOP contenders competitive with or beating Clinton, much will be forgiven. If he can stop her from moving back into 1600, in other words, the dead-enders will accept multiple shortcomings and flaws.
Thus, you see, the makers of the conventional wisdom and the shock troops of the right will have similar agendas, albeit for different reasons, in the Christie-Clinton narrative. Christie knows all this very well, I'd imagine. So he'll flaunt the dead-enders as often as possible, and suck up to them only when he really has to, to send some signal or other--reassuring them of his fundamental contempt for humanism, say (we don't even know if he has that), or his veneration of Scalia and Alito. As long as he polls even with HRC, he'll be given a long leash indeed.