On the morning of his re-election New Jersey’s establishment Republican Governor Chris Christie made this shocking claim: "I'm a conservative," Christie told CNN anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper. "I've governed as a conservative in this state.”
Most movement conservatives who saw the Tapper interview were probably astonished at the claim, but Governor Christie soon set things right in his election night victory speech.
As POLITICO noted, on election night Christie described himself not as a conservative, but as a pragmatist when he said, “To me being governor has always been about getting the job done first. That doesn’t mean we don’t have principles – we have many of them.”
And chief among Governor Christie’s “many” principles is to look out for number one – Chris Christie.
The Jake Tapper interview was quite instructive in how Christie approached his re-election, and it wasn’t to sell conservative policy or governance – it was to sell Chris Christie.
Christie seemed obsessed with running up the score against his little known rival, state Senator Barbara Buono, not with building a conservative, or even an establishment Republican base in New Jersey. Election Day, it seems, was all about him.
"Christie Whitman was elected twice here and never broke 50 percent. Nobody (no Republican) since 1988 has had a 5 in front of their name in a statewide race," Christie said in the exclusive Election Day interview with Tapper.
"My goal always in this race has been to at least get to 50% plus one, and anything above that is gravy and so I'll be really happy with that because that's a historical achievement - in 25 years no one has done that in New Jersey so I'll be happy with that," added Christie. "I suspect we may do better than that."
Christie apparently was referring to then Vice President George H.W. Bush, who booked 56% of the vote in New Jersey in his 1988 presidential election victory.
The interview with Jake Tapper reminds us of Christie’s keynote speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Given a prime time speaking slot at the Convention, presumably to endorse his fellow eastern state Governor and Republican nominee in waiting Mitt Romney, Christie delivered a speech that rivaled a Barack Obama address for the use of the word “I” and managed avoid mentioning Romney until a few paragraphs before the end.
Christie’s speech at the Convention also touted his own humble beginnings and rise to the governorship in a way that cast Romney’s silver spoon upbringing in a most unfavorable light, making the speech more of an endorsement of Chris Christie than it was an endorsement of Mitt Romney.
Chris Christie may have gotten his wish and broken 50% -- indeed it looks like he coasted to a landslide of around 60% -- but it was hardly a Republican and certainly not a “conservative” victory when all 24 of the Democrats in the New Jersey state Senate were re-elected, even as Christie won his much sought after personal landslide.
Far from being a model of how Republicans should govern and campaign to win nationally, Chris Christie’s re-election proves three things: Chris Christie’s brand of “all about me” politics has no coat tails and means certain defeat for the larger conservative agenda, and having a weak opponent who has been abandoned by their own Party makes winning a landslide a whole lot easier.