Chris Christie first broke onto the political scene in the 2009 gubernatorial election in New Jersey. Along with Scott Brown, he was part of the first wave of Tea Party politicians to be elected in the 2009 off-year elections. At first, he was their darling, with his Youtube confrontations with the teachers’ unions.
Then in a move that eventually proved to be too clever by a half, he ‘pivoted to the center’. This culminated in his embrace of President Obama in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As I have argued before, Hurricane Sandy, making landfall a week before the 2012 presidential election, may have been what put President Obama over the top. Prior to Sandy, the same polls that correctly predicted Obama’s victory showed Romney with a small lead.
While many conservatives felt betrayed by this, well, betrayal; Christie’s pivot seemed to work – at least for a while: he got glowing reviews from the Mainstream Media – a rarity for a politician who rose up from the Tea Party ranks; his poll numbers were high; and he cruised easily to re-election in a heavily Democrat state.
Then came Bridge-gate. With polls showing Christie as the Republican’s best shot at defeating Hillary (I know, I know, I don’t think he’s the GOP’s best candidate either, but the point is that the political operatives in both parties believe in these polls), something had to be done. Therefore the Democrat Party’s courtiers in the MSM dredged up a minor abuse of office and turned it into the second coming of Watergate.
The problem for Christie now is the problem created by his pivot: he has no allies left. His natural supporters – the Tea Party conservatives who first got him elected (I remember him featured on the Mark Levin radio show; Mark enthusiastically endorsed him back then; Rush Limbaugh once said he had a ‘man-crush’ on Christie) – have soured on him for his various political and policy apostasies. The Mainstream Media have turned on him. Apparently the MSM were just stringing him along. And from Barack Obama - who might not have been in office today without Christie’s last minute implied endorsement – there is just radio silence.
Chris, you have been played. Just like every conservative politician who tries to court the media by ditching his more controversial conservative positions.
The lesson here for conservatives is very simple. You must always tend to your core supporters first. Show them your greatest loyalty. To your lesser supporters, show loyalty as well, but not to the point where tending to their needs conflicts with the interests of your base. And so on, until you get to the Low Information Voters and the voting-booth coin flippers, who have no political memory and can be roped in a few days before E-day.
If Christie had remained true to that strategy, he likely wouldn’t have been re-elected with the same sky-high majority, but he likely would have been re-elected. But when the chips were down, he would have had a legion of supporters ready, willing and able to go to bat for him.
In politics, loyalty is a supreme virtue. Without it, you are just living on borrowed time.