A conservative group is taking aim at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s record on judicial nominations, accusing him of backing “liberal” judges in the Garden State.
The Judicial Crisis Network, which promotes a “fair and impartial judiciary,” is spending $75,000 on online ads to coincide with Christie’s trip on Wednesday to the political heavyweight state of Iowa, where the governor will attend a trio of fundraisers as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
The governor's visit is creating buzz that he is testing the waters in the important state, which holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses, to see if Christie is a viable candidate for a potential 2016 presidential run.
One 90-second ad accuses Christie of creating a “liberal activist” New Jersey Supreme Court, which as a result wreaked havoc on state finances, hurt businesses and jeopardized jobs. Another 15-second spot goes after Christie for reappointing Democratic Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to the bench.
The Judicial Crisis Network also created a website, ChristieBadOnJudges.com, which asks supporters to sign a petition if they “want Christie to fight for judges who respect the rule of law.”
Mike DuHaime, Christie’s political adviser, said Christie has nominated multiple conservatives to the Supreme Court but several have been blocked by the Democratic-controlled Senate. He noted Christie has still been able to get three Republicans on the court and accuses the Judicial Crisis Network of “showing up only to criticize after the fights are over.”
Not all conservatives believe the ads are necessarily a bad thing for Christie, who is trying to turn the page on the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal. The governor’s popularity took a hit after September’s George Washington Bridge lane closures, orchestrated by some of his staffers and allies, seemingly for political retribution. Christie has denied any prior knowledge of the scheme.
“If I’m Chris Christie, I’m absolutely thrilled that a nationwide conservative group thinks I actually could have the power to appoint Supreme Court justices as president of the United States. This guy is back in play,” said msnbc host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough on Wednesday's "Morning Joe."
Nicolle Wallace, a former George W. Bush White House communications director, added, “Those are the kinds of ads you hope the group would run in Ohio and Michigan and Florida during a general election, because it makes you a lot less scary to women who care a whole lot about issues decided by the Supreme Court.”
In recent weeks, Christie – an establishment Republican governing a blue state -- has seemingly hedged right to appeal to conservatives in states like Iowa. He vetoed gun control legislation, declared that the gay marriage debate isn’t over and has gone after Obama’s foreign policy.
In Iowa, Christie is scheduled to attend a fundraiser for state House Speaker Kraig Paulsen in Cedar Rapids. He’ll then join Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad for a retail stop in Marion, followed by an event billed as “An Evening at the Fair” in Davenport.
After the George Washington Bridge scandal erupted and an internal review the governor ordered cleared him of any wrongdoing, Christie went on a media blitz. During one interview ABC News’ Diane Sawyer asked Christie if voters in Iowa liked his brash style of management.
“I think they love me in Iowa,” he said.