Sunday, November 24, 2013

Big Boy Prophecy

"Big boy" was a nickname given to Chris Christie by George W. Bush, Christie's political godfather who started Christie's current winning streak by appointing him U.S. Attorney in 2001.

From my current perch, it is likely that big boy will be the next president of the United States.

The biggest obstacle to his rise to power has been proclaimed to be his uncertain relationship with the far right of his party. And although this segment of the Republican party is the loudest one, its not automatically the most numerous or politically powerful.

If we look at the past few Republican candidates for president -Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush- we can clearly see that only a minority of them were a favorite of the right wing.

Of these five men who led the GOP since Reagan, only Bush Jr. could be considered a darling of the far right when he started. Some -including Mitt Romney and John McCain- were positively despised by these on the right and yet they still won the primaries.

Chris Christie also has the almost universal support among the east coast business elites, giving him a powerful war chest. In a likely scenario, Christie will face a splintered conservative opposition in the primary who will divide the Tea Party vote among themselves, leaving Christie with a plurality. That contest could only be upended by Ted Cruz, if all on the far right unite behind him, but I still believe that a plurality of Republicans will still vote for the most electable candidate, one thing that Ted Cruz definitely isn't.

The strongest wind in Christ Christie's back will be a simple belief of the independent voter that after two terms of a Democratic president it will be high time to elect a Republican. The same spirit of a party switch helped George W. Bush in 2000 (although he ultimately lost the popular vote).

Its also true that there is essentially only one sure way to win the presidency of the United States, and that route is to position yourself as a Washington outsider who will bring change to the dysfunctional and partisan capital.

Everyone from FDR and Reagan to George W. Bush and Barack Obama have used this method. And Chris Christie is a clear favorite with the communications skills and a bipartisan record to employ this strategy. Unlike Mitt Romney, who got elected as a Republican in a blue state, Christie not only won the first election but also succeeded in being re-elected with a huge margin without posing as a liberal Republican or passing a major healthcare law as Romney did in Massachusetts.

His most likely opponent in the race, Hillary Clinton is the quintessential insider. And as a loyal soldier in Obama's administration it will be very awkward to create enough distance from him to win over the independents eager for a change.

Clinton's major strength and Christie's major weakness will be foreign policy. Its one thing for Christie to lambaste a Democratic state senator as "numb-nuts" but many voters will be uncomfortable with that approach in foreign affairs. But ultimately, presidential elections are not decided on foreign policy.

The two most successful presidents in the twentieth century whose terms in office redefine the political landscape in their wake, were Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Both of whom had a unique communication skill. They were able to speak to their audiences in an uncannily intimate style, as if chatting with an old friend, they were able to reduce complexity with false familiarity.

Chris Christie has this skill and I would be surprised not to see him as an American president in my lifetime.

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