New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) took over as chairman of the Republican Governors Association a few months ago, and it was easy to see why he’d be eager to take on the role. After all, the RGA chair travels extensively, raises his or her national visibility, and cultivates alliances with other Republican players in key states – the kind of activities a likely presidential hopeful would prioritize.
But when Christie took the reins at the RGA a couple of weeks after his re-election as governor, none of the scandals surrounding his administration had come to public light. Perhaps, in light of the controversies and unanswered questions, Christie should allow others at the RGA to take the lead? One of the governor’s former allies apparently thinks so.
Former Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli said Tuesday that it “makes sense” for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to resign as the head of the Republican Governor’s Association amid the controversies surrounding his administration.
“I think just from the perspective of setting aside this as an issue in other races, it makes sense for him to step aside in that role. He does not serve the goals of that organization by staying as chairman,” Cuccinelli said during an appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire.”
“That doesn’t mean any of the charges, political or otherwise, are substantive or not. It doesn’t matter, perception is reality,” he added.
In response, Christie aide Mike DuHaime told the AP that Cuccinelli’s suggestion was “disappointing,” especially given all the money Christie helped raise for Cuccinelli during his own 2013 race in Virginia.
But therein lies the point: when Cuccinelli recommends Christie “step aside” from his RGA role, neither Christie nor his admirers can dismiss the comments as partisan. Team Christie can’t allege a “witch hunt,” raise the specter of a “partisan vendetta,” or blame the “liberal media” – Cuccinelli is ostensibly an ally, who’s benefited directly from Christie’s electoral efforts.
It seems unlikely that Christie will take Cuccinelli’s advice, at least anytime soon. The New Jersey Republican sought this role at the RGA for a reason – to advance his broader ambitions – and a call from one unsuccessful statewide candidate probably won’t change Christie’s calculus at all.
It’ll be worth watching, though, to see if other Republicans soon follow. Keep in mind, Christie traveled to Florida over the weekend for some events with Gov. Rick Scott (R), but the Floridian scheduled exactly zero public appearances with Christie and the two were not photographed together.
There was no official explanation for this, but it’s not unreasonable to speculate that Scott, facing a difficult re-election campaign, had some concerns about his association with Christie in the midst of multiple, ongoing scandals.
This is precisely the sort of thing an RGA chairman shouldn’t have to worry about – other governors should want to be seen with Christie, not hidden away behind closed doors.