CHRIS CHRISTIE IS YOUR NEW JOHN McCAIN -- AND MIKE HUCKABEE IS A MODERATE
After Chris Christie's speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a group of Beltway insiders convened by Politico is seeing starbursts:
Experts: His 2012 moment is now
With just one impressive speech, Chris Christie put three full days of CPAC speakers to shame.
That's the bottom line from a bipartisan panel of experts, who watched the New Jersey governor's address on Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute for POLITICO...
"He has an electricity around him wholly absent around other candidates," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics....
"He hit precisely the right notes people are looking for," Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons said of the Republican, citing the governor's focus on getting the states and nation’s fiscal house in order.
"It was a complete tour de force," said GOP strategist Chris Henick. "We're not seeing too many reformers right now and he sure fits the bill as classic reformer."
... "He looked presidential in the kind of Hollywood sense," Simmons said. "The 'Bulworth,' straight-talking politician. John Goodman on 'The West Wing.' Republican guy from the heartland...."
Wait -- John Goodman? The nasty, Gingrich-y guy who briefly became president on The West Wing when Martin Sheen stepped aside temporarily after his daughter's kidnapping? Do we love the taste of the GOP lash so much that that guy is our pop-culture notion of a "real" president?
Well, Christie's just what Beltway insiders usually want -- a John McCain circa 2000, i.e., a GOP Daddy whose policies can come straight out of right-wing think tanks but whose laugh lines sound as if they were scripted by writers for David Letterman or Jon Stewart. I don't know if the general public craves a guy like this, but the Villagers sure do: a guy who toggles between oracular, self-flattering pronouncements about our the moral flabbiness of our politics and takedowns of enemies that have the punch lines and rhythm of insult comedy, but someone who's too chummy with big-city sophisticates to lead with yokel-bait like gay-bashing and Jesus (even if he votes with the God-botherers). That was McCain a decade ago; it's Christie now. The Beltway finds this formula intoxicating.
Christie keeps saying he doesn't want to run in 2012, and I think he means it -- but the insiders, like a horny high school boy, keep desperately trying to get him to deliver the goods now. If he doesn't run, I'm afraid the besotted insiders are going to go all Annie Wilkes on him and force him to run.
Meanwhile, Public Policy Polling has a new survey reminding us (pace Kevin Drum) that Barack Obama is far from a "shoo-in" in 2012 -- although it's not clear that Republicans could really nominate someone who could beat Obama:
Tested against a generic Republican we find Obama tied at 47%.... Against a generic moderate Republican candidate Obama actually trails by 2 points at 46-44. But when you ask voters whether they'd go for Obama or a Tea Party conservative Republican he leads by 4 points at 49-45.
But look at the numbers against specific candidates:
[Obama] has a 3 point advantage over Mike Huckabee at 47-44, a 5 point one over Mitt Romney at 46-41, a 9 point one over Newt Gingrich at 49-40, a 9 point one also over Ron Paul at 48-39, a 12 point one over Sarah Palin at 52-40, a 14 point one over Jeb Bush at 50-36, and a 14 point one over Donald Trump at 48-34.
Voters want a centrist Republican, and yet their favorite named Republican is ... Mike Huckabee? (This is confirmed when you dig into the PDF of the complete results: Huckabee is the only named Republican whose approval/disapproval numbers are in positive territory.)
This confirms what I've been saying: that the public thinks Huckabee is a moderate. If Republicans figure this out, and if Huckabee figures it out, think they could parlay this into a 2012 win, a la Huck's fellow Bible-thumper, George W. Bush. But I don't know if they get it.
And speaking of Bush, here's more from PPP. Although 44% of poll respondents say they absolutely would never vote for another Bush for president, there's also this:
The Republican base is decently open to the idea of another Bush- only 10% distinctly rule out the possibility....
Interestingly though asked who they'd vote for if George W. Bush was allowed to run against Barack Obama for a third term next year, voters only go for Obama by a 48-44 margin. One thing that number shows is a softening of feelings toward the former President. His favorability is now a 41/49 spread, and he's back up to 81% of Republicans with a favorable opinion of him.
Right-wingers now insist that they were appalled by all the deficit spending in the Bush years, but GOP Bush-love is the love that dare not speak its name.
(Oh, and the new New York Times bestseller list came out last night -- with Donald Rumsfeld's book at #1 on the nonfiction list. Republicans just can't quit these guys.)