The Christie Complex

His name isn’t often mentioned anymore near the top of Romney veep lists, but Chris Christie has already been slotted as Keynote Speaker (whatever that term means in an era where conventions often sport multiple “keynotes” and usually just one rheotrical note) at the 2012 Republican Convention, which is likely a relief to the authors of a new biography of the New Jersey governor. As reviewed in the July/August issue of the Washington Monthly by NewsBeast reporter Laura Collarusso, Chris Christie: His Rise To Power (by veteran New Jersey reporters Bob Ingle and Michael Symons) is honestly critical enough to command a reading from anyone interested in the fiery pol, but laudatory enough to hit the best-seller lists if lightening strikes in Tampa.

You should read the whole review, but what struck me most about it is that Christie is a guy who has negotiated the difficult shoals of New Jersey and GOP politics by combining relatively sane (if sometimes dishonest) policies with the attack-dog attitude beloved of his party’s base. But even though he thrills conservative crowds from coast to coast–and will probably do the same at the Convention–he’s probably hit his ceiling in electoral politics, where litmus tests become absolute. Colarusso’s brisk summary of his heresies is illustrative:

Even though he pulled the Garden State out of regional climate change initiatives, Christie has acknowledged that global warming is both real and caused by humans. He nominated a Muslim man, Sohail Mohammed, for a state judgeship. When conservative critics accused Mohammed of following sharia law, Christie defended his choice, calling the criticism “crap.” He has also staked out a moderate position on illegal immigration, saying it’s not a crime to be in the United States without the proper documentation and advocating for a path to citizenship.

Add in his occasional lapses in Second Amendment absolutism, and his relatively late conversion to the anti-choice cause, and there’s probably not enough nastiness and red meat to make him acceptable to “the base” on a national ticket. But the Christie Complex is that he’ll probably keep getting nastier and bloodier until he figures it all out.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.