If you’ve been reading, watching, or listening to the news in the past few days, you almost certainly know one big fact: Chris Christie won a resounding victory in the gubernatorial race in New Jersey. You also know that he did so as a Republican in a fairly Democratic state. All of this being preparatory, according to conventional wisdom, for a White House run in three years.
If you’ve been watching the news at all for, well, I don’t know how many years, you know that Hillary Clinton wants to be President. There was a lot of talk that these dreams might be over after her primary loss to Barack Obama in 2008 …but now, less than three years before the next presidential election, there are indications she’s willing to try one more time.
For a while now I’ve believed that if Hillary Clinton ran for President in 2016, there is no one in the country that could beat her. Sure, the legacy of 2008 is that she can be beaten, but I suspect this very knowledge and her plans since then will have allowed her to adapt accordingly. While there are other Democrats out there who may run (Biden, to name one), there’s a widespread understanding that if anyone has, she’s “earned” this. She has the experience, the political skill, and a deep understanding of national and international affairs. While the Republicans–90s scandals and Benghazi on their minds–will try to derail her victory if at all possible…I’m just not sure that any of these things will stop her.
The Republicans have, perhaps, but one choice to potentially defeat (or at least heavily contest with) Clinton. That choice? Chris Christie. Sure, some dark horse candidate could come out of the woodwork and sweep the electorate in Obamalike fashion, but there are no indications of that yet. Chris Christie, meanwhile, has a strong base in New Jersey, a high profile, and the reputation of being able to talk tough yet work with those of other political persuasions. Even though he doesn’t have experience in national office, he can make the case that he gets things done. And: he isn’t caught up in the growing complications (and possible recriminations) faced by the Tea Party.
This means that, yes, Christie is not as conservative or ideologically pure as some Republicans might want. But: he may also be the only one of them that has a solid chance at winning. If the GOP considers the electorate realistically, Christie almost certainly must be their man.
A lot of factors will play into a Christie candidacy, not the least of which being whether he can survive the conservative politics of a Republican primary. If he can be himself–the same pragmatic conservative that has succeeded politically in New Jersey–or if he will, chameleon-esque, have to change in order to get the nomination. These are important questions. Not to mention the matter of whether or not he can adjust to the national stage with all his “Jersey personality” in tow.
Even so, all of this may not matter if it is Clinton he faces. She should win the Democratic primary with no problem, and–as I’ve said before–it is difficult to see anyone beating her (Chris Christie included). She’s a juggernaut. Christie would make the election more of a fight than any other GOP standard-bearer and might just manage to pull out a victory in the end, but I still say we’re looking at advantage Clinton.
In their own ways, I think that (politics aside) both have the stuff to be strong and decisive leaders of the United States. In that sense you might even say it is a shame they have to run against each other in the same election.
If Clinton and Christie draw on the best parts of what has got them to where they are and can rise above the politics of the lowest common denominator–which they both can–I think we’ll have an interesting choice in three years. At the very least, many Americans will feel like they have two strong candidate for whom to vote.
I will say this, however: I was so hopeful in early 2012 that we were going to have a mature “adult” election between Obama and Romney. A campaign based on ideas and dignity. My memories of the contest that followed have caused me to be a bit more cynical. So: we’ll see.