Did New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie help or hurt himself on Wednesday by blasting his own political party? In case you haven’t heard, after House Speaker John Boehner delayed a vote on a $60 billion superstorm Sandy recovery bill, Governor Christie lit up Mr. Boehner and Republican House members like they were sparklers.
The Sandy legislation “could not overcome the toxic internal politics of the House majority,” Christie said at a brutal Trenton news conference.
Adding that “palace intrigue” had helped scuttle a bill important to New Jersey, New York, and other areas hard hit by the Oct. 29 storm, Christie heaped disdain on you-know-who for something he (Christie) considered a debacle.
“There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims, the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner,” said Christie.
“It’s why the American people hate Congress,” he added, getting in another kick on the way out the door.
Christie’s bravura performance of a governor scorned is probably a big help for him in his current job, of course. For one thing, it worked, or at least appeared to. Under the pressure of negative comments from Christie, New York Rep. Peter King, and other northeastern Republicans, Boehner scheduled an initial vote Friday on a $9 billion Sandy flood insurance package, and promised that a vote on a further $51 billion in aid will take place on the first full legislative day of the next Congress, Jan. 15.
Christie is running for reelection, and his constituents are unlikely to be offended by his blunt, successful tirade. It could enter New Jersey lore, maybe as the subject of a Bruce Springsteen song. (Hey, Springsteen fan Christie can dream, can’t he? The Boss wrote a rocker about the prosaic subject of tearing down Giants Stadium in New Jersey’s Meadowlands, after all.)
But if Christie wants to run for president someday his primal scream may not help.
Yes, many voters will agree with him and admire a politician who’s willing to cross his own party to get things done. In a general election Christie would probably benefit from a press conference that looks like leadership – if you’re not John Boehner or a House GOP member.
But remember the primaries? That’s a gantlet that any 2016 contender will have to run. For the most part, Democrats and independents don’t get to vote in GOP primaries. Christie would have to appeal only to Republicans, and many of them are likely to have lingering resentments about Christie’s 2012 role.
We’re not just talking about tea party adherents who view Christie as a closet northeastern liberal – Massachusetts' Mitt Romney without the hair. Many mainstream Republicans remain unhappy with the enthusiastic way Christie embraced President Obama in the wake of Sandy’s devastation.
The right-leaning Weekly Standard, for instance, championed a possible Christie 2012 run prior to primary season. But on Wednesday their post on his Trenton press conference was headlined “Christie Craving Pork-filled Sandy Bill.”
The legislation Christie wanted passed is full of financial favors tacked on by Senate Democrats, wrote the Standard’s Daniel Halper.
“After yesterday’s fight over the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal it seems reasonable that Congress might not have been up for another battle just yet,” wrote Halper.
The National Review added that the Sandy bill is about the second wave of federal aid to the area, not the first. FEMA’s emergency funds cover initial recovery efforts. The legislation in question provides cash for rebuilding, which is a less time-sensitive requirement, wrote Daniel Foster.
“The cataclysmic tone struck by northeastern Republicans like Peter King (who is implying he could leave the party) and Chris Christie ... strikes me as unnecessary,” wrote Foster just prior to Christie’s rant.
Given that, it would sure be interesting to see how 2016 opponents (Jeb Bush, anyone?) handle Christie’s occasional anti-House GOP comments, if the New Jersey governor decides to try his hand at the national political game.