His girth aside, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has rarely registered a blip on the 2016 campaign’s radar. The Real Clear Politics poll average currently finds him in 6th place with 3.5%. Unlike in the cases of Walker, Bush, Fiorina, Carson, Rubio, and Cruz, the Republican Establishment and the Main Stream Media has never pretended he was surging and about to take Trump out. In fact, he’s never broken 5% in the polls. Despite this, George Will (or his intern) recently suggested that Christie may very well be at “the center of the stage at the Cleveland convention.” [Keep an eye on Chris Christie, Washington Post, January 15, 2016]. Unlikely—but Christie could impact the race.
With the Trump-Cruz truce over, the Establishment now hopes for a war of mutual destruction. As Christie has been such a non-entity throughout the election, he’s remained relatively unscathed. With Kasich and Bush all but finished, Christie and Rubio are fighting for the scraps.
As I and others at VDARE.com have emphasized over and over again, Trump’s base is not ultraconservative Tea Partiers who hate the GOP Establishment for not cutting Medicare spending. Trump does well amongst virtually all Republican demographics but, as Josh Kraushaar has noted, he is strongest among the “more moderate, more secular, more blue-collar” voters [The Crackup of the Republican Establishment, National Journal, October 19, 2015] Cruz, in contrast, depends heavily from conservative and evangelical voters.
This is not to say that Trump and Cruz are not also competing for many of the same voters. While Cruz is running a traditional Tea Party campaign, he has also echoed Trump’s positions on trade and immigration—going as far as to say he would appoint Trump to build the wall and negotiate trade deals. Cruz has managed to gain support of many hardline conservative immigration patriots like Tom Tancredo and Steve King who likely would be otherwise inclined to support Trump.
The most conservative popular talk radio hosts, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity have been very favorable to both Trump and Cruz—though Limbaugh and Levin have now all but endorsed Cruz. Yet even if Limbaugh and Co. completely turned on Trump and their listeners followed, Trump has a comfortable enough lead right now that he could probably do without them.
Unless a candidate peels off Trump’s working class base he’ll easily win the GOP nomination. Rick Santorum, who is running on an immigration patriot campaign and wrote a book called Blue Collar Conservatives, never even made it to the main debate stage. Scott Walker, who also flirted with immigration patriotism and governs a heavily working class Midwestern state dropped out. John Kasich represents Ohio, the key state for these voters, but his campaign appeals to liberal media elites and big money donors rather than his constituents.
Chris Christie is the only remaining candidate with a potential to draw off these voters. George Will gushes that “Christie could be an alternative alpha persona, but without the ignorance.” Christie’s shtick as a fat, no-nonsense guy from New Jersey who loves Bruce Springsteen ostensibly appeals to working class whites. As Sean Trende has written:
Christie is probably the only other candidate running in Trump’s “lane.” That is to say, while Ted Cruz and Paul could be seen as running in the “Tea Party” lane, and Carson and Huckabee are in the “evangelical” lane, Christie is the only candidate who really has a foot in Trump’s “tough guy/strong leader” lane. He draws from a lot of the same demographics as Trump,But despite these similarities in style and appeal, it’s vital to realize that on the key issue of immigration, Christie and Trump could not be more different.
[Laying Odds on the GOP Presidential Race, Real Clear Politics, December 10, 2015]
Recently Christie has tried to sound tough. During the debate last week, he said
Now, I for seven years was the U.S. Attorney of New Jersey. I worked hard with not only federal agents but with police officers and here's the problem, sanctuary cities is part of the problem in this country. That's where crime is happening in these cities where they don't enforce the immigration laws.In the December National Security Debate, a Facebook questioner named Carla Hernandez asked: "If the Bible clearly states that we need to embrace those in need and not fear, how can we justify not accepting refugees?”
[6th Republican debate transcript, January 14, 2016]
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer added, in the helpful MSM way:
Governor Christie, you say there should be a pause in allowing new refugees to come into the United States, including orphans under the age of five. What do you say to Carla?But Chris Christie doubled down, saying
And it was widows and orphans, by the way, and we now know from watching the San Bernardino attack that women can commit heinous, heinous acts against humanity just the same as men can do it. And so I don't back away from that position for a minute. When the FBI director tells me that he can vet those people, then we'll consider it and not a moment before because your safety and security is what's most important to me.Good red-meat stuff. But there is an unfortunate complication: Christie’s recent tough rhetoric on immigration completely contradicts his longstanding pro-Amnesty career.
[5th Republican debate transcript, December 15, 2015]
Thus while Christie repeatedly harps back to his career as a prosecutor and speaks out against sanctuary cities, he actually tried to force cities to be sanctuaries against their will.
Christie’s New Jersey is in fact one of the most attractive states for illegal aliens. Several municipalities, including the state’s two biggest cities, Newark and Jersey City, and also its capital, Trenton, have sanctuary policies.
The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Control Act both outlaws sanctuary cities and enables for states and localities to enter into 287(g) agreements to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. But Christie has never done anything to combat the Sanctuary Cities.
Worse, in 2007 Don Cresitello, the (Democratic) Mayor of Morristown NJ, appealed to then-US Attorney Chris Christie for the town to enter into a 287(g) program. Morristown had been overrun with illegal aliens including gang members. One of these illegal aliens killed a ten year-old boy after being twice arrested for crimes involving knives and released without being reported to immigration authorities.
Far from taking the hardcore Joe Arpaio stance, Cresitello told NJ Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine that “We’re not going to go after jay walkers”—but that he wanted to be able to deal with the MS 13-led drug and prostitution rings.
Christie accused Cresitello of “"hyperbole and grandstanding and demagoguery" [Morristown’s mayor was right on immigration, August 14, 2007] To this day, Christie still refers to him as a “demagogue” on immigration.
In 2008, then-prosecutor Christie told a church group
Being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime…The whole phrase of “illegal immigrant” connotes that the person, by just being here, is committing a crime…Don't let people make you believe that that's a crime that the U.S. Attorney's Office should be doing something about. It is not.While Christie is technically correct that "unlawful presence" is a civil rather than criminal offense, deportation is a civil remedy (as opposed to a criminal remedy like imprisonment). The issue with "unlawful presence" is not that it is a serious crime, but that every second an illegal alien is in the country, he is breaking the law. Moreover, unlawful entry (i.e jumping the border rather than overstaying a visa) is a crime, and in order to function in society most illegal aliens commit a host of other crimes like Social Security and document fraud. [Is Illegal Immigration a Crime?, by Brett Snider, Findlaw, July 9, 2014]
[Christie at church forum: Illegal immigrants aren't criminals, Julie O'Connor, Star-Ledger, April 28, 2010]
Christie opposed Arizona’s SB 1070, saying: “This is a federal problem, it’s gotta have a federal fix. I’m not really comfortable with state law enforcement having a big role.” [Gov. Chris Christie calls for Republican Party rebranding, Maggie Haberman and Ben Smith, Politico, June 30, 2010]
Yet Christie was quite prepared to addressing illegal immigration on the state level when it came to granting in state tuition for illegal aliens. He surrounded himself with illegal aliens, Democratic politicians, and Hispanic ethnic lobbyists from the Latino Leadership Alliance when he signed the NJ Dream Act. He called opponents of the act “cold hearted” and described the illegal alien DREAMer job thieves as “an inspiration.” [Chris Christie trumpets signing of Dream Act in Union City, Jeena Portnoy, Star-Ledger, January 7, 2014]
Christie portrays himself as a no-nonsense straight talker. His campaign slogan is “Telling it like it is.” In 2010, Christie told ABC News he supported “a commonsense path to citizenship for people.” [Christie: Take my bipartisan example to pass immigration reform, Jordy Yager, The Hill, July 25, 2010]
Yet on the biggest immigration issue that faced our country over the last few years: the Gang of 8 Amnesty, he refused to say whether he supported the bill—or a path to citizenship. When Chris Wallace asked him “Do you still favor comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship?” Christie responded” “What I favor is fixing a broken system, and the fact is that everybody knows the system is broken. And what Congress needs to do is get to work, working with each other and the president to fix a broken system that's not serving our economy well, not serving our country well.”[Chris Wallace Tests Chris Christie’s Conservative Credentials, Fox News, November 10, 2013] He repeated that same type of evasion when ABC News asked him [Christie Defers to 'National Leaders' to Devise 'National Solution' on Immigration, by Matt Vespa, CNS News, November 12, 2013]
And just like the rest of the GOP field, Chris Christie reversed his support for a path to citizenship when his poll numbers tanked. In May, he told Megyn Kelly that citizenship was “an extreme way to go.”
Kelly reminded Christie that about five years ago, he expressed support for giving some undocumented immigrants an opportunity to legalize.In other words, Christie had no substantive objection to a path to citizenship.
Christie said: “I’ve learned over time about this issue and done a lot more work on it. Just immediately going to a path to citizenship, as Hillary Clinton is proposing to do, is just pandering politics.”
[Chris Christie says he opposes path to citizenship, questions Rubio's readiness, Fox News Latino, May 19, 2015]
Later in July, Alisyn Camerota of CNN quoted Christie’s previous “commonsense path to citizenship” line and he responded
Well, first of all, yes, I agree with everything I said in there. We don't have the resources from a law enforcement perspective to forcibly deport those folks, not in those numbers. We simply don't.Christie then demurred from giving citizenship but said he wanted to still give illegals work authorization, noting
I have to tell you the truth, I—we have a number of undocumented immigrants here in New Jersey, many whom I've met over the course of my governorship. None of them has ever come to here and said that, "Governor, the reason I came here was to vote." They said they came here to work. So let's deal with the work situation first, and then we'll deal with everything else.In an interview yesterday, Christie tried to veer right on immigration again, telling Byron York he opposes raising legal immigration limits or legalizing any illegal aliens until "after we get under control both our border situation and our visa situation." He also endorsed the term "attrition through enforcement" and said he supported E-verify to "encourage some people to leave on their own." [A few questions for Chris Christie on immigration, Washington Examiner, January 18, 2016] This contradicts his emphatic statement from less than a year ago that "I’m not someone who believes that folks who have come here in that status [illegally] are going to engage in self-deportation." [Gov. Chris Christie: Many Undocumented Workers Won’t ‘Self-Deport’, by Charlie Spiering, Breitbart.com, April 21, 2015] As I’ve shown above, this is just the latest of Christie's many equivocations and flip flops on immigration.
[Transcript: Chris Christie Shares Views on Justice System, Immigration, CNN, July 17, 2015]
Chris Christie has gotten away with these flip-flops, obfuscations, and just plain terrible statements because no-one has really paid attention to him.
Yet as George Will and other Establishment Poohbahs start talking him up, no amount of tough talk and Bruce Springsteen quotes will be able to hide Chris Christie’s scandalously anti-American worker immigration record.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.