As a long-time loyal Republican and political observer, I always have my antenna up about how the political crisis of the day/week/month is unfolding and if there will be any long-term implications for my party and our nation.
So it is through this lens that I ask the question, should New Jersey Governor Chris Christie step down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA)?
Over the weekend this question started to reverberate throughout the media pundit class. However, it is one about which the average voter could give a hoot—most likely because the average voter has no idea what the RGA is or even does.
If you fall into that category, here are a few paragraphs about the group’s mission statement from the RGA website:
The Republican Governors Association’s primary mission is to help elect Republicans to governorships throughout the nation, but we are also dedicated to providing our governors with the resources to help them govern effectively.
We know that getting elected is only the first step in transforming a state and the nation. Our governors are able to apply conservative principles to solve problems and implement reform policies that serve as models for the rest of the nation.
It is the phrase, “serve as models for the rest of the nation,” that I find most troubling at this moment. Can Governor Christie “serve as a model for the rest of the nation” while fighting for his own political survival? After all, he is still the GOP’s leading presidential candidate for 2016.
In normal times, an RGA chairman is a very successful sitting governor.
Then, he or she is elected by their peers to serve as the head cheerleader/fundraiser—and from that perch they lend and extend their personal clout—helping guide fellow Republican governors and candidates to victory in the upcoming election cycle.
This prestigious national position also comes with the highest of media profiles. For as the chairman travels around the nation, mingling with major donors and giving interviews, he naturally becomes the mouthpiece for all that is good about the GOP.
Through this exposure, the chairman is offered a golden opportunity to increase his own star-power, using the position as a launching pad for even higher office.
Obviously, the RGA chairmanship was tailor made for Governor Christie when he assumed the position on November 21, 2013.
Instead, now we have a political science case-study proving how political fortunes can shift and change at warp speed.
The Chris Christie of mid-January is not the Chris Christie of mid-November, when on the heels of his New Jersey re-election landslide he was even leading Hillary Clinton in the early 2016 presidential polls.
Now, the RGA might find itself in a tough spot if further allegations of Christie’s withholding Hurricane Sandy funds, along with on-going Bridgegate investigations, have any “legs.”
If that turns out to be the case, combined with more drip-dripping of damaging news, there will no doubt be Republican governors and gubernatorial candidates on the 2014 ballot who will start running for cover when Christie comes-a-callin’ to offer “help.”
In fact, we saw such a scenario play out this past weekend in Florida.
All the local news stories focused on how Governor Rick Scott “hid Christie,” and neglected to have any photo-ops with him. Meanwhile, Democrats protested Christie’s appearance garnering much media attention. Those protests distracted from the true intention of the visit, which was to raise funds and support Governor Scott in his tough battle against newly-minted Democrat and former Republican Governor Charlie Crist.
Here are two examples of the local media flavor:
According to the CBS affiliate in Miami, “This was supposed to be a big moment for Chris Christie—his national coming out party. He just won re-election with huge numbers. He was selected head of the Republican Governors Association, which would allow him to travel the country and introduce himself to the party faithful—giving them a taste of what a Chris Christie presidential campaign might look like in 2016.
“But then along came ‘bridge-gate.’”
In it’s story about the New Jersey governor’s Florida visit, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel quoted Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee: “It’s a little bizarre that Rick Scott would bring the chair of the Republican Governors Association—something that arguably he should be proud of in a normal situation—and not brag about it, not show him off, not spend some time in front of the cameras and take some photo-ops and answer some questions. Well there’s a reason for that: It’s probably both that Rick Scott doesn’t want to be seen standing next to Chris Christie and Chris Christie doesn’t want to be answering any uncomfortable questions.”
Meanwhile, I asked two Republican Party political professionals (who requested that their names be withheld) if they thought Christie should step down as RGA chairman. Their answers were, “Hell no,” and “Outside of the liberal media, this Christie ‘scandal’ has no legs.”
But maybe some “little arms?”
For if Governor Rick Scott’s weekend “hiding” of Christie is an indication of what Republicans can expect in future RGA trips, then Christie becomes a liability and his days as chairman could be numbered.