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‘GOP Establishment is desperate to believe the tea party is dying,’ their buildup of Chris Christie is ‘happy fantasy’-NY Magazine, Frank Rich

November 6, 2013

11/6/13, “Frank Rich on the National Circus: Cuccinelli’s Near-Win Says More Than Christie’s Landslide, NY Magazine, Frank Rich

What should we make of his (McAuliffe’s) narrow win in a state (Virginia) that has twice voted for Barack Obama? And does it say anything about the chances of a Clinton restoration in 2016?

This is a much more revealing election than New Jersey’s. Polls before Election Day showed McAuliffe with a lead nearing double digits, and in the case of a Washington Post survey, with a 24 percentage point lead among women. But in the end, he won by less than 3 percent, won women by 9 percent, and might have lost had a Libertarian third-party candidate not won 7 percent of the vote. The Republican whom McAuliffe barely beat, Ken Cuccinelli, was no Chris Christie. Cuccinelli is a true tea-party guy.That he could come this close to winning in a swing state that twice went for Obama – and do so despite being vastly outspent and being tarred with the shutdown’s impact on Northern Virginia government workers – is a huge political talking point for a GOP base that believes the party’s future is a Paul or Cruz, not a Christie or Jeb Bush. As for this election’s impact on Hillary Clinton, I never saw it as a proxy for her supposed presidential run, despite McAuliffe’s strong association with both Clintons. Still, it is somewhat embarrassing that the Clintons’ strenuous campaign efforts for their pal

  • had so little apparent positive effect….

There is no front-runner for 2016. But the excessive valuation given by the GOP Establishment to Christie’s New Jersey landslide (against an underfinanced and pallid Democratic sacrificial lamb who was no Cory Booker) is a fascinating window into

  • the power of denial.

That Establishment is desperate to believe that the tea party is dying,

that the radicals in the House cannot pull another stunt like a government shutdown, and that a restoration of centrist Republicanism is at hand. And so if you tune in to the unofficial headquarters of the Christie ’16 campaign, Morning Joe at MSNBC, Christie is not only the front-runner, he’s his party’s savior, and is within a step of two of measuring the drapes for the White House.

Christie is also the great white hope of

  • Wall Street barons, of the
  • foreign-policy neocons, and of
  • mainstream conservative pundits.

How many of the latter have written columns recently about “what the right can learn from Chris Christie”? I lost count after Peggy Noonan, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Jennifer Rubin. The point seems to be that a gregarious Republican presidential candidate can win over blue America by putting a happy face on conservative ideology and showing up to help poor people when a natural disaster hits. In other words, though no one will say this out loud, Christie is viewed by Republican grandees as a panacea in the way George W. Bush once was — a “compassionate conservative” with crossover appeal — albeit with a touch of the bullying once admired in another blue-state Republican boosted for president by much the same crowd: Rudy Giuliani.

The only problem with this scenario is that we are not in 2000 or 2004 anymore. Today’s GOP wouldn’t nominate a Bush unless it was done in a back room by the party’s financial benefactors and the entire primary process was junked. That’s not happening. Back in the real world, Christie is manifestly unacceptable to his own party’s base:

  • He’s for immigration reform (a stance that has already turned the GOP base against Marco Rubio, a supposed 2016 front-runner only a few months ago);
  • he has championed gun control; and
  • he threw in the towel on his previous opposition to gay marriage.

Good luck with that in any GOP primary state outside the Acela corridor. And we’re not even factoring in the vetting issues uncovered by the Romney campaign, as reported by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin in Double Down, among them potential financial improprieties and associations with both a mysterious female aide and Bernard Madoff. Even yesterday’s New Jersey exit polls show that, the landslide notwithstanding, only 51 percent of Christie’s home-state voters think he will make a good president, only 39 percent have a favorable view of the GOP (Christie avoided the Republican brand like the toxin it is in his campaign), and that he would lose in a presidential face-off against Hillary Clinton.

  • The notion of Christie as the GOP front-runner for 2016 is mainly

a happy fantasy for those who simply don’t want to believe that the Republican party’s base is as radical, as uncompromising, and as determined as it has been ever since Obama entered the White House. Enjoy it while it lasts.”…via Free Rep.

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