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Why Chris Christie is big presence in the GOP race, despite Bridge-gate

Christie won't pander to the far right, beat up on gays, or bash immigrants. He will be making it easier for the eventual Republican nominee to be similarly restrained.

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    New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie speaks with supporters after a town hall event in Sandown, N.H., on Tuesday. June 30, 2015.
    Dominick Reuter/Reuters
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I am excited about Chris Christie entering the presidential field.

Not as excited as I was when I said on CNN after his reelection as governor of New Jersey that he was the front-runner for the GOP nomination.

Christie swept into office, winning votes in all kinds of places, including among blacks, Hispanics, gays, and even Protestants.

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That, of course, was before Bridge-gate revealed its ugly head.

That tempered my enthusiasm, to say the least.

I still don’t know if Christie ordered traffic to stop or his people channeled him in doing so, but I do know that anybody who purposefully screws up traffic to score political points doesn’t deserve to be dog-catcher, let alone POTUS.

Christie showed how you get votes in nontraditional GOP areas. You aggressively go out and get them.

It’s still a valuable lesson.

My excitement for Christie was also tempered by Jeb Bush’s entry into the race.

Jeb fills the same void that Christie does in the GOP field. He is a common-sense conservative who won’t go off the rails in trying to appeal to a wacky tea-party base.

John Kasich, should he take the plunge, fills that same void. So does Lindsey Graham. Marco Rubio does too, although I think the Florida senator doesn’t have the deep experience that some of the others do.

Still, Christie’s entry in the race excites me.

If he makes the debate stage, he will be a huge presence.

He will talk about entitlement reform, which is a subject that won’t be broached by any other candidate (with the possible exception of Kasich), and it is an issue that must be addressed.

Christie also won’t pander to the far right. Instead, by dint of his personality, he will take the rope and pull it back to the center. This makes it easier for Jeb Bush to make rational arguments. It’s easier to be rational when you aren’t the only one.

Christie won’t beat up on gays and he won’t bash immigrants, making it easier for our eventual nominee to be similarly restrained.

All of this is to the good.

That’s what makes me excited about Chris Christie.

I don’t think he will make it to the White House. I do think the eventual nominee — should he or she gain the White House — will put him in charge of a very large cabinet post (perhaps Attorney General), so his run for the Presidency is not without some reward at the end.

So, he’s got that going for him.

John Feehery publishes his Feehery Theory blog at http://www.thefeeherytheory.com/.

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