Sunday, February 2, 2014

GOP Traffic Jam

Governor Chris Christie has finally gone on the offensive to defuse "bombshell" revelations that he knew about the Ft. Lee lane closures at the time they were happening.  "The Governor first learned lanes at the George Washington Bridge were even closed from press accounts after the fact," the 700-word email from the governor's office said Saturday.  

The email attacked the press for publishing the story, and attacked the story's source, former New York & New Jersey Port Authority official David Wildstein, who is seeking immunity in the investigation. "Bottom line -- David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein," the email said.  But the attack on Wildstein got unusually personal, "He was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior."  Really?  This schoolyard retort reveals a frustrated and desperate man.    

Even if Governor Christie's story stands up through the rigorous legislative and federal investigations the incident has triggered, in the end his 2016 presidential aspirations will be snuffed out.  Questions about the way he ran his office, about the people he surrounds himself with, and his management style will dog him for years.  Conservative Republicans already did not support him for higher office.

So, with Governor Christie out of the mix, the race to be the Republican presidential nominee is wide open.   Whomever they choose will likely face a difficult challenge in the 2016 election. A recent Washington Post poll shows Hillary Clinton has a 6 to 1 lead among Democrats over all other potential candidates for the party's nomination.  Further complicating the Republican's task are the divisions within the party between the Tea Party faction and those who hew closer to the center.

The Hill reported that Florida Senator Marco Rubio is now getting a lot of attention, especially since Representative Paul Ryan said he would not run for the White House in 2016.  "A group of Republican fundraising heavyweights and wise men in Washington's business community are solidly behind Rubio, and see him not only as someone who could win the White House, but someone they can work with," The Hill said.  Senator Rubio, who counts himself a Tea Party member, has had his eye on this prize for some time.  He has recently amplified his positions against President Barack Obama, Obamacare, immigration and education.  Ultimately, his role in the immigration debate will have an important impact on whether he can secure his party's support.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has been outspoken on everything from Obamacare to NSA surveillance.  He is a proud libertarian, and aligns himself with the Tea Party on most issues.  But he has recently made controversial statements, and has been accused of plagiarism for lifting parts of his speeches from Wikipedia.  He may prove to be too independent minded for the ever buttoned down Republican Party.

The Republican Party has several governors who could rise to the challenge; Ohio Governor John Kasich and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are among the strongest.   But neither has a national profile, and both have taken controversial positions on state issues.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush would probably be the favored candidate if he decides to throw his hat into the ring.  Last week Bush said, "I'm deferring the decision to the right time, which is later this year."  A recent Washington Post poll shows him only behind Ryan among Republicans as the favored candidate.  Former First Lady Barbara Bush has said she doesn't believe her son should run.  Despite the fact that he is getting a lot of calls from top Republicans urging him to announce, he seems reluctant.  Should he decide to stay on the sidelines, Marco Rubio will benefit most.

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been appearing everywhere.  Even though some of his supporters have called for him to run again in 2016, he has said he won't.   His running mate in 2014, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, would be a long shot for obvious reasons, as would former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has thrust himself into the national limelight on issues like Obamacare, immigration and raising the federal debt ceiling.  The Harvard educated and overly ambitious Cruz is distrusted by many of his colleagues, especially Republicans.  His failed tactics led to last year's government shutdown.  His "never in doubt" attitude makes him a polarizing figure in Washington.  While the Canadian born senator is a darling of the Tea Party, it is unlikely that he could win his party's nomination.

At this point, the field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination is wide open.  Governor Chris Christie's plight may not have altered the outcome of the Republican presidential nominating process, but it sure has led to another major traffic jam.

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