New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie is a rising star in Republican national politics. He is a high-profile backer of Mitt Romney’s candidacy and a plausible choice to be Romney’s running mate. Even if not so chosen, Christie can be expected to remain an important campaigner for Romney, and in the event of victory, Christie might take a key position such as attorney general in the new administration.
Regardless of the various uncertainties in the above scenarios, a Christie run for president in the 2016 or 2020 cycle seems distinctly possible. Indeed, given his current high profile, and the various calls for him to run this time around, it would be something of a surprise if Christie does not show up as a presidential hopeful in four or eight years.
The New Jersey governor thus looks set to be a factor in national politics this year and beyond. An assertive personality, he is sure to draw attention and controversy in any role he plays. Among his key assets are seeming capacities to appeal across factional divisions within the Republican Party and to strengthen the party’s position within the Northeast, a region in which it has been in steady retreat.
As a policymaker, Christie has focused largely on fiscal and economic issues, and his views and record on such matters will get much attention in any future career move. His ability to appeal to the financial sector will be a significant factor in his political prospects, but also a target for opponents who will portray him as too close to Wall Street and the rich.
The 49-year-old Christie, elected governor in 2009, has built a reputation as a budget-cutter. Facing big deficits on taking office in 2010, he made sharp cuts in state aid to towns, cities and school districts. The following year, he vetoed legislative moves to restore various cuts. He has been in frequent conflict with unions for teachers and other public employees over his efforts to scale back pension and health benefits.
Recently, Christie has focused on tax cuts, proposing a 10% across-the-board reduction in state tax rates that currently range from 1.4% for income under $20,000 to 8.97% for income over $500,000. State Democrats have denounced the proposal as aiding the wealthy, and the governor has been unapologetic about that prospect. The top 1% currently pay 41% of the state’s income tax, he said in a Wall Street Journal interview headlined “Christie to the 1%: Please Occupy New Jersey.”
Christie’s combative style has garnered national attention. His caustic exchanges with critics have become a YouTube staple, often posted on his official channel by his social-media-savvy staff. He called an ex-Navy SEAL law student who interrupted him an “idiot,” for instance. Christie informed a questioner on a call-in TV show that where he sends his kids to school is “none of your business.” As Hurricane Irene approached, he told sunbathers, via a news conference and Twitter, to “get the hell off the beach.”
In 2009, Christie received considerable support from the financial sector in his race against Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, notwithstanding the latter’s history as an investment banker. According to data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a watchdog group, Christie raised $856,030 from the finance, insurance and real estate sector, making for over 14% of his campaign’s contributions; this included $457,869 from the securities and investment industry.
Corzine, by contrast, received $418,166 from the finance, insurance and real estate sector, including just $181,015 from the securities and investment industry. Such figures were a small fraction of Corzine’s overall receipts, which were dominated by over $27 million donated by the candidate himself. Christie won the race with 48.5% of the vote, compared to Corzine’s 44.9%.
Before running for governor, Christie was a high-profile federal prosecutor. Prior to that, he was in private law practice, as well as holding the local office of freeholder in Morris County. From 1999 to 2001, Christie worked as a lobbyist, with clients including the Securities Industry Association (which after a later merger became SIFMA).