Topics: Barack Obama

Why Chris Christie was once a viral conservative hero

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,White House,Charlie Spiering,Barack Obama,Republican Party,Tea Party,Hillary Clinton,New Jersey,2012 Elections,2016 Elections,Campaigns,Chris Christie,Mitt Romney,Conservatism

Conservatives know New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is now both the media and establishment choice for 2016, and that is part of the reason why they are so suspicious of him.

But when conservative Republicans were desperate for a voice opposing President Obama, Christie was a viral star.

In 2010, conservatives were delighted that Christie shouted down Occupy Wall Street protestors, reporters and bitter union members who aired their grievances at his town halls.

A flood of YouTube videos went viral in political circles, as Christie frequently and effectively shut down his opponents.

Christie's viral moments were not only featured on the Drudge Report and conservative political blogs, but they also drew praise on conservative talk radio.

Talk radio king Rush Limbaugh praised Christie for his no-nonsense political approach.

"This is the common sense we've been waiting for," Limbaugh said in February 2010. "We're weren't waiting for someone to lower the seas, we were waiting for an elected official in the executive branch to lower the sea of red ink, and to get some sensibility back to budgeting."

Limbaugh praised Christie for having the guts to challenge entrenched interests in New Jersey in an attempt to balance the budget.

"This is the kind of thing the Tea Party people are demanding," Limbaugh added.

Radio host Glenn Beck echoed similar praise.

"Chris Christie, I've been watching you from across the river, I really really like you. … You may be George Washington, I don't know," Beck said in 2010.

Beck admitted that it was dangerous to place false hope into politicians, but suggested that Christie was a great spokesman for conservatives.

"Help us. Help us, Chris," Beck whispered into his microphone at the end of the segment.

Christie's rise in early 2010 resulted from the lack of fresh faces on the Republican conservative front.

Tea Party favorites Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. didn't assume office until January 2011. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, didn't come to shake up Washington until January 2013.

Even after new conservatives arrived in Washington, none of them were ready to launch campaigns for president.

Christie's appeal was only heightened by the 2012 presidential primaries, as many conservatives viewed him as an alternative to Mitt Romney.

In September 2011, rapt audience members reacted to Christie's speech at the Reagan library by demanding that he reconsider a run for president.

"Please sir, we need you, your country needs you to run for president," one woman begged after his speech. The crowd exploded in applause.

But in spite of the conservative insurgence supporting his candidacy, Christie again turned down any idea of running for president.

He finally disappointed conservative fans after he ended his role as the "anti-Romney" by endorsing Romney, though the more conservative Texas Gov. Rick Perry was then still competitive in the race.

At that point, for many conservatives in Iowa and South Carolina, Christie became another northeastern Republican making a calculated political decision.

After Christie spoke warmly about Obama following Hurricane Sandy, few conservatives were surprised when he allowed the Medicaid expansion in New Jersey ahead of his re-election campaign.

"Obama is his new best bud, okay?" Limbaugh said reacting to news. "So I'm just not surprised."

Christie was popular among conservatives only when they needed him to be.

With new vocal conservatives taking office, he now has to face his challengers with a new brand of politics.

At this point, Christie can't run to the right of potential presidential rivals like Paul or Cruz, and he can't try to shout them down either without turning off Republican conservatives.

To some extent, Christie has to appear as the reasonable, bipartisan leader that the media have eagerly painted him to be.

As a new media darling, Christie might earn more respect from conservatives if he tangles with the media during the campaign, especially during the debates.

Nothing, however, will help Christie regain popularity more than the threat posed by Hillary Clinton.

Should Christie torch Obama's weak record and take on the Clinton political machine, he might do very well against such opponents.

Conservatives like a good fight, and a Christie vs. Clinton race might be the perfect opportunity for Christie earn back some of his viral political stardom.

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