Are controversies helping Christie with conservatives?
February 3rd, 2014
02:32 PM ET
2 months ago

Are controversies helping Christie with conservatives?

(CNN) - Chris Christie's been under an hot media spotlight for nearly a month now, mostly for all the wrong reasons.

But the intense scrutiny by the mainstream media may actually be helping Christie, who's seriously considering a bid for the 2016 GOP nomination, with his party's conservative base, most of which has never warmed to the politically pragmatic Republican governor from New Jersey.


Christie will speak next month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the oldest and largest national annual gathering of conservative leaders, activists, and supporters, and a must stop for any Republican presidential hopeful. Organizers said Christie was snubbed from last year's conference because some of his positions were not conservative enough.

While one tea party leader told CNN  he was "stunned" Christie was invited this year, the American Conservative Union, the group that organizes the conference, said in a statement that it "was very excited to announce" that Christie would be address the gathering.

The head of the ACU said the coverage of the controversies might help Christie with the party's base, which doesn't like to see Republicans attacked by the media. Al Cardenas told CNN the politicizing of state investigations into the controversies by New Jersey Democrats has made conservatives "kindred spirits with Governor Christie."

Christie is currently awash in allegations that some of his aides closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge to punish that town's mayor for not endorsing Christie's re-election and that Hoboken's Democratic mayor was told Superstorm Sandy recovery aid for her hard hit city would be dependent on support for a development project backed by the Governor.

Grassroots conservatives are skeptical of Christie, in part because of the Governor's praise of President Obama over the federal government's assistance to New Jersey in 2012 following the massive destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, and because of his criticism of some congressional Republicans over their initial reluctance to support federal relief aid to Garden State following Sandy. Christie didn't win any friends on the right by his support of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. He also angered conservatives with his willingness to work with Democrats on such issues as immigration reform, and his criticism of some on the right, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a tea party favorite who's a possible rival for the 2016 GOP nomination.

But while many conservatives may not be Christie fans, they like the mainstream media even less, and, as the old proverb goes, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

"Conservatives are very suspicious of the criticism of Christie because it's coming from the mainstream media. They're more skeptical of the reports coming out about the New Jersey Governor because of the media bias. Conservatives are significantly more open-minded about believing Christie and more willing to let this play out," Republican strategist Jon Brabender told CNN.

"They're fine with him coming to CPAC" along with the other potential 2016 GOP contenders, added Brabender, a longtime senior political adviser to former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum, a 2012 presidential candidate and possible 2016 hopeful.

Christie's standing with conservatives

Christie has never polled well with the grassroots wing of the GOP. He had 13% support in a recent ABC News/Washington Post survey which asked Republicans about their choice for their party's 2016 presidential nomination. But among tea party and grassroots conservatives, the New Jersey governor stood at 6%.

One Republican strategist said conservatives view Christie's current issues as "the GOP establishment's problem, he's not our problem."

"There are plenty of talented conservatives who are looking at running and if the 'Bridgegate' scandal escalates - or if another scandal breaks - the establishment may have to support one of the conservatives if it wants to back a winner in 2016," Republican communications strategist Keith Appell told CNN. "Most conservatives viewed Christie with skepticism before the scandal.  His tough talking persona, especially with public labor unions, was always offset by his reluctance to be a leader on issues of importance to conservatives."

"The scandal has not really drawn conservatives to his defense, the feeling is this is a problem of his own making whether he knew first hand or set the tone in his administration for underlings to take such sophomoric liberties.  The prevailing feeling is one of wariness that more shoes are yet to drop either in this scandal or about something else," added Appell, a senior vice president at CRC Public Relations, a Washington, D.C., PR firm that has had many conservative and Republican clients.

Judson Phillips, who heads the Tea Party Nation, used stronger language.

"No one I know has any changed perceptions of Chris Christie.  Everyone I know in the conservative movement dislikes him now as much as they did before Bridgegate," Phillips said. "I'm stunned he is invited to CPAC."

"Christie is not a conservative and he is not an ally of conservatives. He has repeatedly stabbed conservatives in the back and anyone else who stands in the way of his political ambitions."

With multiple investigations, the controversies facing Christie are far from over. And while he's obviously not winning over some conservatives, the media firestorm does appear to have a silver lining for a man considering a run for the White House.


Filed under: 2016 • Chris Christie • CPAC • New Jersey
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. duke

    Great The wing-nuts like the damaged goods because the media doesn't like him. If that is really their idea of what qualifies someone for the highest office in the land, ok Bless Them.

    But if he runs with your support and goes down in flames, WHAT THEN??

    February 3, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Conservatives love playing the victim card. Christie played a royal flush of them at 2 hour news conference. I have no doubt that he's gaining supporters because of the misconception that there is a Democratic witch hunt underway.

    As wrong as it is, it's human nature to judge the actions of others by what you would do in the same situation. It's how our brains are wired. We learn by association, and so we instinctively think by association.

    February 3, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    Ah, the Right wing loves a victim, except for the genuine victims. Then, they are parasites and should be either shamed, ridiculed or ignored.

    February 3, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  4. guest

    funny headline. but ya his controversies probably very much warm the repubs up to him, now they can bring dirt as leverage to make sure he does exactly as he is told. I imagine the Koch brothers are licking their lips in anticipation of getting him into the top office, with as much dirt as they have on Christie, they will basically become POTUS.

    February 3, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. Marie MD

    If the right wing nutsos love him all it means is that he IS one of them. A lying bully who thinks everything is his way or the highway (unless he closes it) and imposes his will on others.
    BTW did he have anything to do with the transit mess after the Super Bowl last night? Three hours to get on a train and/or bus?
    I bet his big governorship flew out in a super sized helicopter.

    February 3, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. Thomas

    Remember the saying , any press is good press ?

    Christie is done as a potential president candidate , it's about him remaining governor at this point .

    If he goes down , it will hurt the say it like it is , strait from the gut republican image they were trying to portray .

    February 3, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    "They're fine with him coming to CPAC"
    ------------------------------------–
    So now all of a sudden they're fine with him coming? What a difference a year makes. I guess he's gotten all of the President's koodies off of him from during the storm. Christie is done and whether conservatives want to admit it or not, they know it too!

    February 3, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  8. Wake up People!

    Of course they do. It's the American way. Bully people until they agree with your way, if they don't, run over them and wipe them out. Ask the Natives.....

    February 3, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Yes The hair on fire Guns Over People tea potty wingnuts quickly latch on to new "victims" in their delusional minds. They actually hate Christie and want him to go down.

    February 3, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    I am glad CNN fixed this post box, so that I could freely post. I don't know how you post, but I post this way. Than you CNN for fixing to have folks freely express views to show the strength of this largest democracy. God bless!

    February 3, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  11. Gunderson

    Holy Junk Yard Dog,
    What we need as president is someone meaner than a Junk Yard Dog. What you Namby Pamby's need is a Father, not a Nanny. Christi fills that bill exactly. So on and up with Gov. Christi! Maybe we can get Mammy Yokum, (Sarah Palin) for V.P.That would be the perfect team. I see the Stock Market is going down. Didja read on Fox News that the Obummy Web Site is all confused again-still.

    February 3, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  12. Tom

    The right-wing nuts always have to be outraged by something, and bashing the mainstream media is one of their favorite topics. I don't think it means they are warming up to Christie, it's just a convenient excuse to whine about the media. The far right will never enthusiastically embrace Christie. If Christie somehow manages to win the Republican nomination for President in 2016, his best chance for victory is to win moderate Republicans (those remaining), independents and pick off Democrats who don't like Hillary Clinton (assuming she's the nominee). The problem Christie has right now is the scandals are killing him with those groups. The second Christie says something that strays from the far-right script, they're going to turn on him. One of the big mistakes Romney made was he spent too much time trying to appease the far right. Most of his flip-flops came about from trying to calm the conservative media after they went ballistic over something Romney said that wasn't in line with conservative dogma. Christie will find himself in exactly the same position as Romney (and McCain) if he relies on winning the far right. He will never be conservative enough to suit the wing nuts and the harder he tries to win them over, the more likely he is to alienate everyone else. Christie's best hope is to be the anti-wing nut candidate. Unfortunately for him, the scandals have made that strategy less viable.

    February 3, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    And, of course, CNN deliberately fails to report on the polls showing that about 5% of conservatives asked said that the scandal made them MORE likely to vote for Christie in 2016. That's not an insignificant amount and would be enough to potentially make all the difference in the primary.

    February 3, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  14. Al-NY,NY

    of course they like him now. however when it comes to him getting the nod for President, they'll drop him like a literal ton of bricks

    February 3, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  15. Ol' Yeller

    "There are plenty of talented conservatives who are looking at running and if the 'Bridgegate' scandal escalates – or if another scandal breaks – the establishment may have to support one of the conservatives if it wants to back a winner in 2016,"
    In other words... christie is our frontrunner and basically all we got, but if he can't somehow weasel out of this we are going to have to run one of our insane minions like cruz, paul, or whoever is polling good that week.
    My advice to republicants... look on down the road to maybe 2024 or beyond. romney made your party look bad enough (like you need any help), but your second stringers are just plain dangerous. Putting 12 crazies in the primary who all raise their hands (on national television) when asked if they believe evolution is wrong really, really, really, makes you ALL look like you are completely out of touch with reality.

    February 3, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  16. Grognak

    This has nothing to do with the scandal itself, but it's a well known fact that the only way to rid yourself of black-man cooties is with a firing. Now that he's clean again, the Tea Party is free to associate with him.

    February 3, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  17. Wake up People!

    Who wants to bet Mitt runs again......

    February 3, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  18. pdq

    Of course, this goes both ways, but tribalism is especially strong on the right. Until he was "attacked by Democrats", Christie was that horrible Obama-hugging RINO – now that he's in serious risk of losing office over the petty political shenanigans of his administration, he's become a cause celebe on the right, which hates over everything else to even appear to "lose" to Democrats.

    February 3, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  19. Greg

    So what is this article trying to prove? That's some Republicans kind of like Christie? Or that the media is totally bias(considering the scope and scale of the incident).

    While they attempt to make a connection between Chris Christie and most conservatives with a horribly written headline. At least five paragraphs in they mentioned that most conservative do not like Christie.

    Honestly, The left wing is just destroying the candidate that they were at one point touting as the next contender for the 2016. Unfortunately for Chris Christie, he can't delete the Internet. And skipping down the coast of New Jersey with the president, right before the election, didn't help. I mean, not even Democrats from that region wanted Obama anywhere near them.

    February 3, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  20. Becca Helen

    Why do you even use the word, "Conservatives"? There is no such thing as a conservative. There are only Republicans like the following: Christie. D"souza. Jesse Ryan Loskarn. The Gov of VA., and his wife, who committed fraud. The Gov. of floriduh, who while at the helm of the EVIL HCA, was fined Billions for MEDICARE FRAUD. Now, I ask you, and I could go on, and on, forever....like Aunt Edna's as*....I ask you: WHAT is close to conservative about any of these horrid, A MORAL, people? They all have such wild reputations. Conservatives? I think not. Republicans? Yes, every toxic inch of them.

    February 3, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  21. Harry Kuheim

    At this point does it really matter who closed those lanes?

    February 3, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the Repub/tea bag majority

    Christie is playing the victim card so, yeah, sure that makes him more attractive to conservatives. That's their whole playbook!

    February 3, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the Repub/tea bag majority

    @The Real Tom Paine: "Ah, the Right wing loves a victim, except for the genuine victims. Then, they are parasites and should be either shamed, ridiculed or ignored."

    Along those lines, ever notice how the RWNJs get all in a lather about foreign aid, saying we should spend that money here at home? And then in the next breath, demand we cut social services to our citizens in need?

    How, oh how, do their heads keep from 'sploding?

    February 3, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the Repub/tea bag majority

    @Harry Kuheim: "At this point does it really matter who closed those lanes?"

    It was a petty abuse of power, which kept children from school and emergency vehicles stuck in traffic. If the order came from the top, it speaks volumes about what kind of person Christie is. Voters have a right to know.

    February 3, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  25. caseyhd

    Strange how they love Christie with all this going on but scream about even baseless controversies with Obama.

    February 3, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
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