At National Review, Jonah Goldberg writes:
I’ve been saying for a long time ... that Chris Christie has a much better shot at winning the nomination than the conventional wisdom suggests. That’s not to say he’s got a good shot. But there’s a clear path for him. Christie is following the McCain strategy and is simply setting up shop in New Hampshire. His gifts as a candidate are almost perfectly suited for New Hampshire town halls. If he wins in New Hampshire, there’s plenty of precedent that he could go all the way after that.
On Morning Joe just now they ran this video from the Huffington Post showing Christie talking about drug addiction and treatment. Whatever you think of the issues involved, you can see how this would leave a lasting impression, particularly in a state struggling with a major heroin problem. It’s also a good example of why I think he’s got a shot.
The video is a six-and-a-half-minute monologue in which Christie argues that drug addicts deserve empathy, compassion, and treatment, like his mother, who never managed to kick her tobacco addiction, and who eventually developed lung cancer.
Goldberg isn't the only political observer who's impressed, and who sees this as a sign of Christie's viability as a presidential candidate. This is from Rachel Maddow's site:
Chris Christie shows contender qualities in speech on addiction
Rachel Maddow shares video of Chris Christie speaking at a campaign stop in New Hampshire about addiction as an example of Christie's skills as a communicator and a reason he is still a contender for the Republican nomination even as his poll numbers struggle
Here's Maddow's clip, which includes long excerpts from the Christie monologue. (Warning: the clip is long, it's preceded by an ad, and the Christie discussion doesn't begin until 5:09.)
Oh, and Scarborough didn't just play the Christie clips -- he raved about Christie:
“Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough responded to Christie’s “remarkable” moment on MSNBC on Wednesday, saying it’s what Republicans have been waiting for.
“That is what we’ve been talking about and, I can tell you as a Republican, what we’ve been looking for in candidates all year,” Scarborough said. “That was a remarkable moment.”
Sorry, but no.
Yes, it's true that the video has been shared nearly four million times on Facebook, far more often than any recent video on the Huffington Post Politics Facebook page -- but what does that have to do with viability in the GOP presidential field?
Maybe this will play in New Hampshire -- New England has been particularly hard hit by the recent increase in heroin addiction. And maybe this will help translate into votes there for Christie, though he's got a huge amount of competition in his "lanes" (Donald Trump in the East Coast Blowhard "lane," Rubio, Kasich, and Bush in the Sort-of-Moderate "lane"). As of this writing, Christie is in eight place in New Hampshire, average 4.3% of the vote; in the most recent New Hampshire poll, from WBUR, he's tied for fifth, at 7%.
But he's nowhere in Iowa -- 11th place, 2.0% of the vote. He's nowhere in South Carolina -- 11th place, 1.3% of the vote. He's nowhere in Florida (Florida! with all those Tri-State Area retirees!) -- tied for eighth place, 1.0% of the vote.
The problem is that if you're running for the Republican presidential nomination and you get past New Hampshire, nearly every contest immediately following is like South Carolina -- massive numbers of Christian conservatives and teabaggers, hardly any moderates. And Iowa is like South Carolina in precisely those ways. Get through New Hampshire and you still have to face the March 1 contests, which include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Is compassion on drugs going to play in those states? Really?
Remember, drugs are still scary to conservatives. Last fall, Gallup found that 51% of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana -- but only 31% of conservatives (and that was down from 38% from 2013). Pew in 2014 found that Americans favor emphasizing treatment over prosecution by a 67%-26% margin -- but for Republicans, it's only 51%-42%.
And then there's something Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post found in the recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll:
... pollsters read a series of statements about the direction of the country, then asked respondents how well each of those statements described them.... two of them stand out.
1) I feel cautiously optimistic about where things are headed. It is important to remember how bad the economy was just a few years ago. The economy is improving, more Americans now have health insurance and those with pre-existing conditions are covered, more jobs are being created, and things seem to gradually getting better.
... Nearly 9 out of 10 Democrats said that statement describes them very well or fairly well. Only 1 in 4 Republicans said the same. Only 1 in 20 Republicans said the statement describes them "very well." ...
2) A lot of what is happening today makes me feel uneasy and out of place in my own country. Things seem to be heading in the wrong direction with our letting millions of immigrants into the country illegally, letting religion slip out of our public life, and moving to be more accepting of gay and lesbian rights.
The divide here is just as stark. About 7 in 10 Republicans say the statement describes them very or fairly well. Nearly half say it describes them very well. Only 3 in 10 Democrats say it describes them very or fairly well.
In all, 71% of Republicans agreed with #2, the "unease" statement. Drugs aren't mentioned, but what do you think -- is it conceivable that drug abuse doesn't make these people uneasy?
The GOP isn't rushing to support the guy with the empathetic take on addicts -- it's clamoring to support the guys who are sick of feeling empathy for anyone except the Republican voter base. Jonah, Joe, Rachel, that shouldn't surprise you.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog