Chris Christie dissed by CPAC. Is that good or bad for him?

CPAC organizers are apparently still annoyed that New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie praised President Obama's recovery efforts after superstorm Sandy.

Susan Walsh/AP
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sits next to first lady Michelle Obama at the National Governors Association dinner at the White House Sunday.

New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie is not going to get an invite to speak at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, according to The Washington Post and lots of other media outlets. Looks like the CPAC organizers still consider Governor Christie an apostate for praising President Obama’s superstorm Sandy recovery efforts near the end of the 2012 campaign.

And they’re not the only ones. Lots of conservatives look at Christie’s every action with suspicion. A couple of days ago, they noticed that he sat next to first lady Michelle Obama at a National Governors Association dinner at the White House. Never mind that Christie wasn’t the person in charge of place cards.

“The slobbering love affair between GOP Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Team Obama continues to blossom,” wrote the conservative news site Twitchy on Sunday. “Smoochie, smoochie.”

Hmm. Is this a political problem for Christie? Looks like he’s now the Nelson Rockefeller of the 21st century – the moderate Republican whom the right most loves to hate.

In the short run, it’s good for him. He’s running for reelection in New Jersey this fall, and given the state’s Democratic proclivity, every insult he gets from the right builds his Independent Republican brand. There are some 700,000 more Garden State Democrats than Republicans, after all. The math there is easy to do. If we were more cynical than we are, we might even say that Christie asked CPAC to stiff him, at least until next year.

Yes, he’s already wildly popular in-state. That doesn’t mean he isn’t still working on shoring up his vote. Are you writing this down, potential-GOP-Senate-candidate Geraldo Rivera?

The CPAC snub might benefit Christie in the longer run, as well. As commentator Allahpundit notes on the conservative Hot Air website, the conservative group might as well be tossing the plus-size New Jersey gov into the briar patch. (Close your eyes and envision that for a moment.)

“Christie was never going to run as the conservative choice in 2016 and lord knows he’s not going to run as a conservative to get reelected in New Jersey.... CPAC’s unwittingly helping him burnish his brand as the country’s most formidable centrist Republican. Expect him to get lots of mileage out of it in interviews over the next month,” Allahpundit writes.

Yes, but that only helps him if he can win the GOP nomination, right? To do that, he has to run well in Republican primaries, many of them closed to independents and other swing voters. That’s one reason that Mitt Romney swung right, away from his policies as governor of Massachusetts, in his own run. Remember when Mitt called himself “severely conservative”? That was at CPAC. They’ve invited him to speak, by the way. That should be, uh, interesting.

So look for Christie to start sounding more conservative and declining the seat next to the first lady beginning in, oh, late 2014. That’s if he wants to run for the Oval Office of course – and he may not.

Unlike Mr. Romney, Christie may not have to become “severe” in his adherence to conservative doctrine. A little bow in the direction of the right might do. Given that the GOP has lost four of the past six presidential elections, including a 2012 race that many Republicans thought they would win, electability might rank higher on the list of qualities esteemed by conservatives the closer 2016 approaches. 

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