New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, still in the GOP dog house for saying nice things about President Obama's handling of Superstorm Sandy mere days before the November election, angered conservative critics once again this week by announcing that he would expand Medicaid under ObamaCare. The news came as the organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual enclave of the nation's conservatives, said they didn't invite Christie to this year's gathering because he has a "limited future" in the Republican Party, in part because of his backing of gun-control legislation, which is toxic to many conservatives.
Christie had criticized Obama's expansion of Medicaid, but his reversal "was a political no-brainer for a politician running for re-election in a blue state," say Maggie Haberman and David Nather at Politico. Christie may find it to be a pyrrhic victory, though, as this could make CPAC's prediction more likely to come true. Last year, Christie was a featured speaker at CPAC and a rising GOP star widely considered to have presidential potential. Even if he coasts to another term in his home state, as expected, his warming to this key provision of ObamaCare could sabotage his chances of becoming one of the party's national standard bearers.
CPAC, for its part, says Christie just isn't a real conservative. And that kind of assessment often spells defeat for many primary candidates in today's GOP. Much of the right sees Christie's Medicaid maneuver as "just one more deal breaker in a series," says Jill Lawrence at National Journal. He praised Obama after Hurricane Sandy. "He thinks climate change is real. Also he has a man crush on Bruce Springsteen, the Democrats' go-to entertainer to fire up crowds before elections." Still, Republicans should think twice before tossing him aside.
Christie, saddled with his Northeastern pragmatism and — the horror — extending health insurance to tens of thousands, will be a non-starter in 2016 if the political climate is the same then as it is now.
The irony is that Christie has a record 74 percent approval rating in his blue state, and 71 percent of his constituents think he deserves to be re-elected. That suggests broad appeal and a national future — but only if his party figures out how to embrace rather than shun people like him. [National Journal]
With all the flak Christie is taking, it's tough to argue with CPAC's assessment of his future, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. Then again, this feuding might not hurt him in the long run. One of the biggest beefs fiscal conservatives have with Christie was his "cheap, demagogic" battle with the House GOP over uncorking Sandy relief funds. Conservatives think they're going to chasten him by keeping him at arm's length over this, but they're probably really just "doing him an incredible political favor."
Sandy relief is the biggest reason why his approval rating in Jersey is upwards of 75 percent; it's likely also the biggest reason he polls well nationally even with Democrats at the moment. His whole post-Sandy nonpartisan brand is built on the idea that he’s less ideological and just more goshdarned caring than those heartless conservatives in the GOP congressional caucus. And now here's CPAC proclaiming that, indeed, his Sandy relief support is cause for (temporary) banishment from conservatism. He’ll be crowing about it for weeks. It's practically an in-kind contribution to his gubernatorial campaign. [Hot Air]
And when it comes to Medicaid expansion, Christie is not the only Republican rolling the dice. He's joining seven other Republican governors — so far — who have chosen to go along with the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion to get health-care coverage for many of their uninsured constituents. How that plays out for them politically depends on how many other governors go along, says Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post.
The remaining question is: Will Republican governors pay any price in national politics for accepting Medicaid expansion? For any governor who has national ambitions, the hope has to be that the expansion rapidly shifts from a betrayal of Republican principles to something that almost all the states are doing. Otherwise, it's almost certainly going to be a weapon used against them. [Washington Post]