Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post thinks Chris Christie is facing a tough challenge between now and 2016:
... The town hall meeting Tuesday was the New Jersey governor's first stop on what is being billed as a summertime "No Pain No Gain" tour of shore towns. It is meant to prepare Garden State voters for what Christie warns are going to be agonizing fiscal choices, starting this fall.I don't believe that Christie "did not foresee" the current pension crisis. Certainly he had no reason to try to head it off in a responsible manner -- he knows that very few things make a tingle run up a GOP primary voter's leg like a battle with "union thugs," especially if you get to be a hero Republican by screwing those union members out of something you were contractually obligated to give them.
"Promises were made that can't be kept," Christie said of the state's public-employee pension system. "Welcome to the real world, folks."
What happens in New Jersey over the coming months could do more to determine Christie’s chances of winning the 2016 GOP presidential nomination than anything he does on his closely watched early forays into Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
That is because the biggest prerequisite for a sitting governor to run for president is a success story in his home state....
New Jersey was shocked in April by an $807 million budget gap that Christie's administration did not foresee. The governor now says he will have to miss a couple of yearly installments against the state's unfunded pension liability -- payments that were part of a law he signed in 2011 and touted as one of his greatest achievements....
Christie, of course, has categorically rejected dealing with this problem in a responsible manner:
In June, he again vetoed tax increases on businesses and the wealthy that were passed by the legislature. He argues that New Jersey's high taxes are one reason it is struggling economically.His aides are already portraying him as the hero on the white stallion:
"What people look at in effective leaders are people who are willing to take risks to make meaningful change," said Christie strategist Mike DuHaime. "He will be judged, as he has as governor, as someone willing to take on tough fights."And Christie himself is pretending that he's getting into this fight with great reluctance:
"Nobody in public office -- believe me, myself included -- wants to come out here and say, 'I have to pare back benefits.' Nobody wants to do that, because that's one way to get a lot of people really angry at you," Christie said.Yeah, we're all familiar with Chris Christie's lifelong struggle to avoid having people get angry at him.
"But guess what. That’s what's going to have to happen. And if the legislature is unwilling to do that, let me tell you what's going to happen: New Jersey will be Detroit" ...And you know what sort of people live in Detroit, don't you?
Ahh, but perhaps Tumulty is right, because I can't possibly imagine why Christie would want to experience a repeat of what happened the last time he fought this battle:
... three years ago, ... the governor and his allies in the legislature pushed through a bill that raised the retirement age, increased [public employees'] pension contributions and cut benefits. Retirees gave up cost-of-living adjustments....Don't throw me in that brier patch again!
When Christie was selling that plan at raucous town halls across the state, public-sector union members frequently engaged him in shouting matches -- and turned out to be handy foils.
"He did an amazing job in public. That's the first time we came to understand the depths of his charisma and ability to persuade," said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, chief lobbyist for the New Jersey Education Association.
Look, it's still going to be a struggle for Chris Christie to win the Republican nomination in 2016 -- as much because of his 2012 embrace of Obama as because of Bridgegate. But if he has a chance at all, he's doing exactly the right thing at the right time.
Look at the the latest CNN poll of the 2016 GOP aspirants -- Christie's leading.
And notice who else is gaining:
Christie and Perry have each jumped five percentage points from CNN's last Republican nomination poll, which was conducted in June.Why is Perry gaining? Because he's waving a big gun in response to an invading horde of brown-skinned eight-year-olds. Christie's gaining because perceived as he's holding off the all-powerful MSNBC Prime Time Militia, which briefly went wall-to-wall with Bridgegate a couple of months back. And now he gets to take aim at a target Republican voters hate even more.
This is what you need to do if you want the Republican nomination. You don't go around pretending to care about poor people a la Paul Ryan and Rand Paul -- you identify a liberal enemy and go to war.