New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has served the Garden State since 2009 as a member of the Republican Party. On Tuesday, he successfully won his re-election bid for governor. In the past, he has done his fair share of bashing President Obama. But when Hurricane Sandy hit, in the midst of election season, he pragmatically put politics aside and openly commended the assistance that the president gave to the area. Members of the Republican Party were outraged that Christie had the heart to prioritize his constituents — many of whom had lost their homes — over criticizing President Obama in an effort to boost the presidential hopes of then-candidate Mitt Romney.
There is widespread speculation that Governor Christie has his sights set on the Oval Office in 2016, but he has distanced himself from his own party on numerous occasions. He has seen the Republican Party suffer defeat pretty handily in the last two presidential elections and knows that running as a Republican in name only is the best way to win. This is a microcosm of the identity crisis going on in the Republican Party, and Christie is doing himself a favor by getting ahead of the curve.
In 2008, Barack Obama was able to garner support from people of all backgrounds, and this propelled him into the White House. Young people, women, African Americans, Hispanics, are groups of voters the Republican Party essentially ignored and did not believe would come out in scores to the polls. But they did, and helped President Obama to defeat John McCain in a landslide.
The Republican Party has struggled with its direction ever since. Numerous attempts to suppress the rights of voters and comments such as “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” and “binders full of women” are examples of Republicans putting a bad taste in the American public’s mouth. Millions of voters have identified less and less with Republicans and the Democrats, certainly not because they are a beacon of hope, have collected the windfall.
Recently, GOP headquarters hired a 23-year-old youth outreach director with hopes of bringing young voters into the fold. This comes several election cycles too late, but reactive change is better than no change.
While President Obama’s approval rating has slipped dangerously slow, the Grand Old Party has also seen quite a drop in approval rating for the way it handled the government shutdown. Say what you want about the Affordable Care Act, but it became a law in 2010. That was three years ago, and just this past October, Republicans made it clear that they would rather hold our entire federal system hostage than act on a law that was passed in Congress and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The general demeanor of the Republican Party is simply childish and Christie has made efforts to show the American public that he does not share its sentiments. A few examples: Christie has openly chastised his own party regarding the shutdown, accepted a medical marijuana proposal, and supported in-state tuition rates for undocumented residents. And what does Christie get for his efforts to distance himself from the GOP? He won 49% of Hispanic voters and 20% of African American voters on Tuesday.
Christie has made it clear that he doesn't want to take part in the nonsense performed by the majority of the Republican Party, especially since the midterm elections of 2010. And the strategy is paying off: In the elections that took place this week, Christie was the lone conservative to score a victory. Clearly, what Christie has done thus far is working. When the 2016 campaign season begins, you will never hear Christie actually admit to this. But through his appearances and behaviors, you will see it happening. It is these types of things that sway voters on the fence to climb down on his side.
Because actions always speak louder than words.