Keeping Christie at arm’s length

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a news conference in Newark, New Jersey January 27, 2014.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a news conference in Newark, New Jersey January 27, 2014.
Andrew Kelly/Reuters
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) traveled to Florida a few weeks ago for some political events and fundraisers, and was welcomed to the Sunshine State by Gov. Rick Scott (R). If you don’t remember seeing any photos of the two together, there’s a good reason – there weren’t any.
In Christie’s first out-of-state trip since his bridge scandal broke, the Florida governor arranged for exactly zero joint public appearances and the public never saw the two together.
Today, the New Jersey governor will be in Texas, but we won’t see Christie with the state’s governor or gubernatorial nominee, either.
Christie will be in Dallas and Fort Worth on Thursday for Republican governor fundraisers…. Likely GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott will not join Christie. An aide said Abbott will be in Houston as part of a statewide series of appearances on immigration.
The RGA was a major donor to Gov. Rick Perry when he ran for reelection. Perry spokesman Rich Parsons said the governor also would not be attending.
We can’t say with certainty exactly why Perry and Abbott are steering clear of Christie, even as the New Jersey governor goes to Texas to raise money to help Abbott’s campaign. Maybe the Texans simply had previous commitments they couldn’t break. Perhaps Perry sees Christie as a 2016 rival. Maybe the ideological differences between them would make a meeting awkward.
Or maybe the New Jersey governor’s multiple ongoing scandals have made him a little radioactive, and even as Christie tries to put his troubles behind him, they seem to follow him wherever he goes.
Remember, it’s likely Christie became the chairman of the Republican Governors Association precisely so he could travel and help lay the groundwork for a national campaign. That task becomes more difficult if GOP leaders in various states, including those who expect to win gubernatorial races this year, are reluctant to be seen in the same room as the guy.
The New York Times reports today, meanwhile, that Democratic operatives are “determined to transform [Christie] into a toxic figure, whose name is synonymous with the ugliest elements of politics: partisan bullying and backslapping cronyism.”
That strategy will be on display Thursday in Texas, where Mr. Christie is scheduled to meet with Republican donors as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
In the kind of scene that Democrats said would play out wherever Mr. Christie traveled this year, Texas party activists will hold a news conference denouncing him and linking his woes to the state’s leading Republican candidate for governor, Greg Abbott.
The message to Republicans thinking of appearing with Mr. Christie: His problems will become your problems. “If Republican governors want to keep embracing him as their chair, as their model for the future, we’re happy to help them out,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
This isn’t what the RGA had it mind when they made Christie its election-year chairman. For that matter, it’s not what Christie had in mind when he lobbied for the gig.
Indeed, it’s come to this.
[Christie’s] aides refuse to disclose the location of his fund-raising appearances, and the Republican candidates for whom he is raising money seem reluctant to stand beside him in public. In Florida a few weeks ago, Gov. Rick Scott was driven into the back entrance of an event with Mr. Christie, to avoid gathered reporters and demonstrators.
In Illinois, where Mr. Christie will attend a fund-raiser next week, local Republicans said they remained in the dark about the event’s location, while state Republican officials have been asked not to talk about Mr. Christie’s trip.
There is a growing recognition among governors association donors and state Republican officials that the investigations surrounding Mr. Christie and his inner circle were making it harder for him to operate as the organization’s public face.
All of a sudden, Ken Cuccinelli’s recent suggestion isn’t quite as easy to dismiss.
In fairness, it’s worth noting that Christie isn’t the only one whose ostensible allies are keeping him at arm’s length – plenty of red-state Democrats aren’t eager to be seen with President Obama, either, in advance of their tough re-election campaigns.
The difference, however, is that Obama has already won two national presidential elections and will leave public office for good in 2016. Christie likes to think his burgeoning career as a national leader is just getting started. For conservative Dems to shy away from their sixth-year Democratic president isn’t nearly as embarrassing as Republicans keeping their distance from a prominent GOP governor who expects to launch his first national campaign fairly soon.

Chris Christie, Rick Perry and Texas

Keeping Christie at arm's length