My candidate for 2012 has been the same as my candidate was for 2008: Rudy Giuliani. Now, I’m starting to really like a fresh face: New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Peggy Noonan, in today’s Wall Street Journal, makes the case for Christie:
…The problem for the Democrats, however, is not a new Contract With America, or the Tea Party. Their problem is Chris Christie.
National Republicans don’t want to talk about specific cuts in spending for the obvious reason: The Obama administration is killing itself, and when your foe is self-destructing, you must not interrupt. Let the media go forward each day reporting the bad polls. Turn it into “Franco: still dead.” Don’t let the media turn it into a two-part story: “Obama is Struggling and The Republicans Will Cut Your Benefits.”
That is classic, smart political thinking, but wrong. The public thinks we’re sinking as a nation. They want to know someone has a plan to help. The most promising leader in that respect is Mr. Christie, the New Jersey governor, who just closed an $11 billion budget gap without raising taxes. He is famously blunt and doesn’t speak in those talking points that make you wonder, “Should I kill myself now with rude stabs to the chest, or should I just jump screaming from the window?”
On “Morning Joe” this week he said, “There were a lot of hard cuts and difficult things to do in there, but fact of the matter is we’re trying to treat people like adults. They know that we’re in awful shape, and they know that no one else is around anymore to pay for the problems that won’t hurt them.”
What about the argument that in a recession we need stimulus spending? “It’s dead wrong. More spending with what? The federal government continuing to print more and more money and leaving that debt for our kids? It will only grind the economy down further.”
On public schools: Teachers complain when they’re getting “4% and 5% salary increases a year in a 0% inflation world. They get free health benefits from the day they’re hired for their entire family until the day they die. They believe they are entitled to this shelter from the recession when the people who are paying for that shelter are the people who have been laid off, who’ve lost their homes, had their hours cut back. And all we ask them to do is freeze their salary for one year and pay 1.5% of their salary for their health benefits. . . . As much as I love teachers, everyone’s got to be a part of the sacrifice.”
Mr. Christie was direct, unadorned: You can’t tax your way out of a spending problem, you’ve got to stop spending. Governors have budgets for which they’re held accountable, so he had to move. But Mr. Christie’s way is also closer than most national Republicans have come—or Democrats will come—to satisfying the public desire that someone step forward, define the problem, apply common sense, devise a way through, do what’s needed.
He’s going to break through in a big way. The answer to our political problems lies in clarity, competence and courage, not a visit to crazy town. And he knows how to put out his hand. “As much as I love teachers.” That’s good.
And I don’t care that he’s overweight. Enough with the pretty boys and the race and gender candidates so appealing to self-congratulating, pious liberals.