WASHINGTON — Christine Todd Whitman, a national symbol of moderate Republicanism, faces the toughest battle of her career in her race to remain governor of New Jersey, says the man who ran her campaign four years ago.
"I think Christie's in the fight of her life," GOP strategist Ed Rollins told a Monitor breakfast yesterday.
Mr. Rollins is himself famous for having claimed four years ago - at another Monitor breakfast, after Whitman won the governorship - that the campaign had handed out "walking-around money" to black ministers to help suppress the black vote. The comment ruined Rollins's political career; he hasn't spoken with Whitman since.
Rollins cites two reasons why Whitman is struggling now: One, she did not use her four years as governor to "define herself" or reinforce her political base. And two, he says, "she was more of a national figure than she was a big Republican figure in her home state."
But even as a national Republican figure, Rollins says, she's out of step with much of her party.
"I think Christie fits the party of her father better than she fits the modern-day Republican Party," says Rollins. "She hasn't in any way, shape, or form attempted to relate to the conservative element in the Republican Party."
Rollins predicts she'll win the Nov. 4 race in Democratically-dominated New Jersey - but probably by less than 50,000 votes.
"I think she's fighting on the wrong issue," he says, adding he can't understand why she picked a fight over auto insurance rates when she couldn't push a bill through the state legislature.