POLITICS: PennAve

Chris Christie at odds with GOP hardliners on gun control, immigration

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Republican Party,New Jersey,2012 Elections,2016 Elections,Chris Christie,PennAve,Rebecca Berg,Mitt Romney,On the Rise

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn’t officially launch his 2016 bid for president in his re-election victory speech in Asbury Park, N.J., this month — but as a Republican who won 60 percent of the vote in a Democratic state, he might as well have.

In his victory speech, Christie talked about "people coming together," including minorities, suburbanites, farmers and city dwellers. It's what America wants and needs, he said, countering conservative efforts to push his Republican Party further to right.

“I know that tonight a dispirited America, angry with their dysfunctional government in Washington, looks to New Jersey to say, ‘Is what I think’s happening really happening?'" Christie said. “Let me give the answer to everyone who is watching tonight. Under this government, our first job is to get the job done. And as long as I am governor, that job will always, always be finished.”

That Christie would cruise to re-election was a foregone conclusion, but the manner of his victory was striking: He built a broad coalition in a Democratic state, winning over virtually every voting bloc except African-Americans — though he still got 30 percent of those votes.

Immediately after the election, Christie's silhouetted head was displayed on the cover of Time magazine. “The Elephant in the Room,” the headline blared, a jejune allusion as much to the governor’s well-documented girth as to his presence on the national political scene.

Even as some in his party called for greater conservative purity, Christie's victory points the way toward a potential new coalition for the GOP. And, in the context of new revelations about Christie from the 2012 presidential campaign, as detailed in Double Down: Game Change 2012, it would be shocking if Christie did not run the next time around.

Some of the Republican Party's most influential donors urged Christie to run against Mitt Romney in 2012, and he seriously considered their entreaties, according to authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. Romney also later considered adding Christie to the ticket as his vice presidential running mate.

But, as Christie told the Republican strategist Karl Rove, he worried about cutting short his first term as governor and taking his shot at the White House before he was ready. Rove shoved those worries aside, but Christie chose to wait. Until now.

Fresh off his election victory, Christie made the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows, defending his positions on immigration reform and gun control that also put him at odds with his party's hard liners.

Asked on one show if he was a conservative or moderate, Christie took the big-tent approach.

“All the labels — that’s for the folks down in Washington, D.C.," he said, "and obviously, they love playing that game, but the people of America aren’t interested in that game.”

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