New Jersey governor Chris Christie has emerged as a national figure
since ousting Jon Corzine 15 months ago, and just might be the GOP
2012 presidential front
if he was actually, you know, interested in running for
president. This hasn't stopped Beltway journalists from speculating
about the immense appeal a Chrisite candidacy would hold for a large
bloc of voters who hate out-of-control Washington spending but also
think the president is an OK guy who wasn't born in Kenya, Indonesia,
or the Al Jazeera kitchenette.
But is Christie the non-candidate
more vulnerable than he appears? In today's New York Times, Richard
Pérez-Peña and David M. Halbfinger examine
the question of Christie's political strength and find that for all
his "in-your-face frankness and nonstop aggressiveness" the Garden State
governor has some notable chinks in his armor.
Chief among them,
according to Pérez-Peña and Halbfinger, is the question of just how
effectively Christie has enacted the politics of austerity. Christie
grabbed headlines back in October when he scrapped
plans for an $11 billion rail connection that would have linked New
Jersey to Manhattan, yet his "agenda of balancing the budget, rescuing a
pension fund that could go broke within a decade and curtailing rising
property taxes — the holy grail of politics in his heavily suburban
state — is far from achieved." And while Christie has "closed a yawning
budget deficit that he estimated at almost $11 billion," a feat the
Times notes was only accomplished by "skipping a $3 billion payment to
the pension system." Even with major union contracts expiring in June
and the prospect of a wage freeze on the horizon, New Jersey "will still
be deeply in debt, and facing a growing shortfall in its pension fund —
$54 billion and counting — that helped spur a downgrade of the state’s
bonds." With no quick fixes to the state's budget mess, the governor,
despite his national popularity, runs the risk "the wrath of voters" at
home, especially when they discover many of Christie's fixes have merely
"shifted [state expenses] onto their local tax bills."
again, Christie won't have to face that "wrath" until 2013, when he is
up for reelection. And it strikes us that there's something he might
want to do before then.
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