Was the “Chris Christie CPAC Snub” Really a Snub After All?
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference. Going into the long weekend, there was a lot of talk about the new venue outside of DC proper at the Gaylord National Harbor in Maryland, the effect of Rand Paul’s filibuster on CPAC, as well as Ted Cruz’s keynote address, but most of all, there was talk about the Chris Christie snub.
After a recent discussion with a friend of mine on this topic, I am beginning to ask the question: “Was the Chris Christie CPAC Snub really a snub?”
Those who believe Governor Christie was snubbed cite his perceived endorsement of conservative principles by the ACU and those in the movement, along with his intense and public lobbying effort for the Hurricane Sandy bill, and his public statements regarding President Obama, after Hurricane Sandy hit, that took place in the lead up to the 2012 Presidential Election.
Unlike many from New Jersey and those in the media, I am not inclined to believe Chris Christie was snubbed; instead, I see it as a calculated move that could prove beneficial to the New Jersey governor.
First, Chris Christie, by New Jersey and Northeast standards, is a Conservative. When comparing him to the most recent Republican Governors New Jersey elected, Tom Kean and Christine Todd Whitman, Christie holds positions to the political right of the two former governors. When looking at former prominent CPAC speakers such as Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, who many consider left of Christie, I take the “Christie is RINO and should be excluded from CPAC” argument at absolutely no value.
Also remember that Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union, is an effective political operative. With roots in Florida, his influence within the Republican Party, as well as in the Hispanic Community, was quite helpful to Jeb Bush winning and serving two terms as the Governor of Florida, along with a continued growth in popularity after Bush’s time in Tallahassee ended. Cardenas may view CPAC as the opening salvo to the election season, which will feature the Gubernatorial Campaigns in New Jersey and Virginia.
As we in New Jersey all know, Chris Christie is seeking re-election and even though Barbara “Buckle-Up” Buono is perceived by many as a weak candidate, Cardenas and the ACU are not taking any chances. Buono may be a flawed candidate and has a long list of material that will overjoy the Opposition Researchers, but she is running in a blue state (New Jersey was one of the few states where Obama gained voters in 2012) and it’s safe to say that unions and Democrat special interest groups will ally with her en masse, in the interests of defeating Christie. Yes, Christie is a popular incumbent, and yes, is it predicted that he will win, but the ACU, as ally to Christie, won’t take anything for granted, and a Christie loss will end any national aspirations for higher office he may have.
Chris Christie not speaking at CPAC, in his election year, will take a weapon away from Buono and the Democrats. In past election cycles, an effective campaign method used by Democrats has been to take the words of their Republican opponents out of context and use those words against them, in ads and in the media, to paint their Republican opponents as “out of the mainstream.” Furthermore, without this CPAC speech, Buono will not be able to paint Christie as not caring about/focusing on New Jersey, or using his position to seek a higher office.
Note that Chris Christie was not the only Republican politician excluded from CPAC 2013. Also absent was Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, whose term in Richmond ends at the close of 2013. He may be challenging Senator Mark Warner in 2014 and similarly to Christie, Cardenas and the ACU believe that his lack of a role and candidate Ken Cuccinelli’s less prominent role at CPAC may help both Virginia Republicans in their campaigns.
As it can be seen, Chris Christie’s exclusion from CPAC 2013 was clearly not a snub and will not end his alliance with the Conservative movement. This year is just one year, and assuming Christie comfortably wins, I’m sure we’ll see him at CPAC in years to come, especially as we approach 2016. In the end, Chris Christie and his supporters will be thanking Al Cardenas and the American Conservative Union for excluding him from CPAC 2013.