COMMENTARY | Some political observers are surprised that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did not get booed when he addressed the CPAC convention. He had not even been invited in 2013, after all, and conservatives are still irked at his embrace of Obama.
National Review reports that Christie slowly but surely won over the crowd with a message of how Republicans governors have actually accomplished things while Washington politicians have dithered and bickered. He made just one misstep when he ended by suggesting that Republicans may not win in 2016 if they nominate someone who is too conservative. Presidents McCain and Romney might have something to say about that, but by then it didn’t matter.
The reason Christie has won some new respect from the right derives from the fact that he is being persecuted by the media over Bridgegate, though perhaps not quite in the way people think. To be sure conservatives always think fondly of someone that the lamestream media is hammering. The enemy of my enemy and so on.
However it is the fact that Bridgegate has rendered Christie less of a threat for taking the Republican nomination in 2016, thus becoming the third moderate in a row to do so, that has won the right over. The nightmare that haunts the right is having yet another moderate northeasterner taking the nomination and then going on to be defeated by Hillary Clinton. The folks at CPAC would like to see a true conservative get it this time, upon the theory that like Ronald Reagan in 1980, the times and the person will coincide to win victory.
Conservatives like Christie fine as governor of New Jersey. They are sophisticated enough to know that he is as right as it is going to get in that deep blue state. They are, however, unimpressed by the idea that he is electable because he attracts Democrats and independents. For one thing, in the wake of Bridgegate, that is no longer true. For another thing, the right has heard that before, much to its sorrow.
So Christie got a standing ovation at CPAC. But that does not mean he will ever be a factor in 2016.