Seemingly everybody to the right of Jon Huntsman has been invited to speak at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference — including formerly moderate Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R). There's one name, though, that's conspicuously absent on the list of invitees: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). CPAC spokeswoman Laura Rigas says that, officially, the conference "schedule is still being finalized, with several more announcements pending over the next three weeks." But multiple news organizations are reporting that Christie won't make the list.
There are plenty of reasons conservatives might want to hear from a wildly popular Republican governor of a blue state, as Christie's fans were quick to point out:
So why the snub? Conservatives have a snap answer: Christie gave up his right to the conservative label during Hurricane Sandy, first by complimenting President Obama's handling of the super storm and then for blasting House Republicans for failing to initially approve funds to clean up from the disaster.
That's a pretty big reversal for a politician whom Republicans begged to run for president, then vice president, in 2012, and is considered a strong contender in 2016. So this is "revenge because a GOPer dared to say something nice about President Barack Obama?" asks Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice.
It certainly sounds that way — and this very pointed, clearly intentional, most assuredly let's-send-'em-a-message snub of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also suggests what could be in store if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush decides to run and doesn't embrace the conservative agenda 100 percent or shows signs he'd be willing to reach across the aisle and not be on the partisan warpath 24/7.... Wasn't there supposed to be some kind of "rebranding" going on? [Moderate Voice]
"I have my issues with him just like you do, but c'mon," says Allahpundit at Hot Air. Christie may not be as conservative as Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), but "he's one of the few members of the party with a national profile who's reasonably well liked by voters across the board. Leverage his popularity, if only for a day." Still, of all the moderates and RINOs upset by the Christie snub, the New Jersey governor probably isn't among them.
All they're doing here, whether they realize it or not, is throwing him into the briar patch. Christie was never going to run as the conservative choice in 2016 and lord knows he's not going to run as a conservative to get reelected in New Jersey.... CPAC's unwittingly helping him burnish his brand as the country's most formidable centrist Republican. Expect him to gets lots of mileage out of it in interviews over the next month. [Hot Air]
There are some other theories on CPAC's sidelining of Christie, some verging on the conspiratorial:
While CPAC may be burnishing Christie's luster among Democrats, some Democratic groups are attempting to do the opposite. On the same day the CPAC snub hit the wires, EMILY's List — a group that supports mostly pro–abortion-rights Democrats — started its campaign to sink Christie's heavily favored bid for re-election in November: Christie "has national ambitions and a relentlessly anti-woman, anti-family record, a dangerous combination that means we have to expose his extremism now, and prevent him from trying to take his regressive agenda nationwide."
Even if he's re-elected in New Jersey, though, the CPAC snub could hurt his chances with GOP primary voters in 2016, if Christie decides to run for president. Still, if that doesn't work out, his brand of tough-talk and yelling at audiences is suited to more than just being governor of the Garden State.