New Jerseyans have a reputation of talking a good game and Governor Chris Christie sure lives up to that reputation. His ability to win re-election by such a large margin in a blue state like New Jersey is certainly something he should be proud of, and, of course, he is urging everybody to share in his pride.
Christie also seems to have a severe case of presidential ambition and he is hoping that his tenure and re-election as governor in New Jersey will be his launching pad.
However, when you brush aside the media love and the celebrity that Chris Christie has become you will notice quite a few flaws in this Republican diamond in the rough.
Governor Christie started his tenure in office by going after the entrenched interests that have been dragging down the state for decades, just like he said he would. His willingness to take on the teachers union, the NJEA, scored him a lot of points with conservatives and independents in New Jersey and all across the country. However, Christie has clearly been coasting on this NJEA smack-down for some time because he has not continued to "get things done" or even bother to try. His tough-talking seems contained to YouTube clips and doesn't seem to go very far in the capitol where the real work needs to be done. He has sage advice on what others should do to solve governmental problems but has decided that advice givers should just stick to handing it out.
Somewhere along the line Christie realized that his presidential ambitions were best served if he became friends with the very political groups he claimed he would crusade against when running for governor the first time. Most of the unions that endorsed his 2009 Democratic opponent, Jon Corzine, flipped to Christie in 2013. Big Democratic money folks have also fallen in love with Chris Christie. Now why would that be? How can a "get things done" Republican develop such good relationships with such groups?
Christie will tell you that its impossible for him to accomplish his goals because he must contend with a Democratically controlled state legislature, which is true. However, at the same time, Christie touts his ability to "work with Democrats" to solve problems or to just force people to do the right thing. So which one is it? And how come Christie wasn't able to persuade voters to elect down-ticket Republicans on election day if he is so good at appealing to non-GOP voting blocks?
One such problem would be the state's outrageously high property taxes. While Christie has been able to put a cap on the escalation of property taxes he has not been able to reduce property taxes, and because of the unfriendly economic environment New Jerseyans are fleeing the state in droves. In fact, 2012 saw a small increase in the state property tax. Christie also did away with a popular property tax rebate program and replaced it with a much less beneficial to homeowners tax credit system.
Governor Christie has also claimed that he has been able to reduce the size and scope of the government in Trenton through his budget cutting measures. However, Christie has submitted more costly budgets in each year he has been in office while using accounting gimmicks to "balance" the budget. One of these accounting gimmicks? Expanding Medicaid in the state to comply with Obamacare.
Under the watch of the Christie administration the state paid out 23 million dollars worth of improper benefits to prison inmates. How this can be, as Christie claims, "smaller and smarter government" is beyond me.
New Jersey's unemployment rate hasn't experienced much of a downgrade during Christie's time in office. Unemployment in September of 2009? 9.7% Early 2013? 9.5%
Christie has also taken a stab at state capitalism with his quasi takeover of Atlantic City.
Christie claims that due to his leadership New Jersey has roared back to life. The facts on the ground do not jive with the governor's statement.
Within the chess game of politics itself Christie seems to be just like any other self-serving politician, which stands at odds with his crafted "crusader" image. Christie's decision to hold a special election on a date in which he would not be on the ballot to fill the seat vacated by the death of United States Senator Frank Lautenberg hints at Christie's desire to put himself first and foremost instead of his state or party. Democrats will argue that by holding the special senate election in October instead of on the same day as the governor's race Christie helped lessen the number of Democrats who would have come out to the polls and voted for Cory Booker who would then cast a ballot for Barbara Buono. Meanwhile, supporters of the GOP candidate in the special election view Christie's election date selection as a negative for them and their candidate because they would have benefited from the voters that would turn out to re-elect the popular governor.
Christie's use of Sandy relief funds to film ads featuring himself are also a little concerning.
And then there is all of the behind the scenes concerns that caused Mitt Romney to not select Christie as his Vice Presidential running-mate during the 2012 presidential election.
Chris Christie is a favorite of the beltway media scene and Democrats because they view him as an easy challenge in the 2016. Glass tigers often are.