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IN MY OPINION . . .

Gov. Chris Christie's electoral triumph

If you've read my op-ed articles in The Record or my blog posts, you know that I have often been critical of the governor. I blasted him when he cut $800 million in state aid to education soon after taking office ("NJ schoolchildren caught in the crossfire"), giving school boards little time to plan for the impact. I blasted him for expense-account overreach when he was the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey ("A Tale of Two Christies") and for screwing up our "Race to the Top" application for federal aid to education ("Christie plays the blame game, the digs a bigger credibility hole").

But then, in a featured Sunday op-ed piece last December ("Rethinking Christie"), I succumbed. The man has political courage, perhaps the trait I admire most. And he was responsible for getting a pension and health benefits overhaul through the Democrat-controlled state legislature, despite the opposition of public employee unions. It will save property taxpayers in New Jersey a billion dollars per year once fully implemented.

The governor was on all the major talk shows the Sunday morning after the election, taking a well deserved victory lap. And he handled himself well. When pressed by several show hosts to express an opinion on the collapse of negotiations with Iran, he demurred. As a governor, he hasn't been briefed, he said, noting the impropriety of his expounding on the matter in a national public forum. I wish others without sufficient knowledge of a subject would exercise similar restraint.

With Christie's strong showing across all demographics, he is well poised to make a run for the presidency in 2016. Next year he assumes the chairmanship of the Republican Governors' Association, giving him a platform across the nation as he stumps for his party's gubernatorial candidates. I know it's been said that his Jersey-boy attitude won't play well in Iowa or South Carolina or some other parts of the country, but those naysayers are wrong. Christie is one of the most adept politicians I've ever seen in front of an audience. I saw him at one of his "town hall" meetings, in Mahwah in June 2012, and he was masterful.

Christie can win the Republican nomination, despite grumbling about him among some Tea Party adherents. His far-right contenders for the nomination are already taking pot shots at him, calling him that most derogatory of epithets, "a moderate." If Christie doesn't veer too far to the right during the primary process and stands his ground as an outspoken, center-right pragmatist—one who intends to govern and not, simply, to obstruct—I think he can win the general election, too. Even against Hillary.
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