A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Is Chris Christie The GOP's Savior ?

The new CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has jumped into the lead among possible 2016 Republican presidential candidates, scoring 11 points better than his nearest competitor (Rand Paul). This is the biggest lead that any possible GOP candidate has shown in any poll so far -- and is undoubtably due to his huge re-election win in New Jersey a few weeks ago.

This has to buoy the hopes of GOP moderates, who see Christie as the candidate who can lead the party back to a more reasonable conservative philosophy, and maybe even win the White House for that party. But is that true? Could he win the White House, and could he lead the party back to a more moderate stance?

I'm not at all sure of either. Christie's biggest support comes from his own part of the country -- the Northeast. That is least likely part of the country to be carried by any Republican in a presidential election, especially if the Democratic nominee is Hillary Clinton. Several other polls have shown that Clinton would easily beat Christie in the Northeast (and probably even in his own home state of New Jersey). And he might not even be able to carry Southern and Western Republican states.

That's because those states are ruled by the teabagger element of the party -- and that element doesn't like Christie at all. They consider him to be a liberal sell-out -- someone willing to compromise with Democrats at the expense of their ultra-right-wing ideology. These states are not going to vote for him in the primaries (and recent Public Policy Polling surveys have shown that). For instance, he trails Ted Cruz in Mississippi, Texas, and Montana. Even if he could win the nomination without those states, there is a good chance that the teabaggers will desert the party for a third party effort in the general election (and that could hurt Republicans not only in the presidential election, but also down ballot).

There's no doubt that the Republican Party needs to move back toward the center. Party leaders admitted as much after the 2012 elections. But as long as the teabaggers control as many states as they currently do, that's not going to happen just by nominating someone like Christie. In fact, that might just split the party further (although they may have to happen before the party can heal and start to attract more moderate Independents in the future).

Is Christie the GOP's savior? I doubt it.

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That same poll also queried Democrats as to their preference for a 2016 party nominee. As expected, Hillary Clinton still has a huge lead among Democrats, and unless something really weird and unexpected happens, it looks like that nomination is hers for the asking.

The CNN / Opinion Research Poll was taken between November 18th and 20th of 843 nationwide adults. Although the whole survey had a 3.5 point margin of error, that climbed to 5 points when only Republicans or Democrats were questioned.

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