By Haridos Apostolides, US Correspondent
2014 has barely begun, but the American media machine has already put its unremitting reporting on the impending Presidential Election into gear… taking place in November 2016.
As RealClearPolitics.com surveys suggests, the popular consensus has former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats fighting it out with the likely front-runner from New Jersey, hardball governor Chris Christie on the Republican ballot.
Christie is known nationally for two major reasons; his larger-than-life persona and his outspoken views on pretty much anything and everything that comes to mind. However, he earned widespread admiration after the 2012 disaster caused by Hurricane Sandy which left New Jersey in a state of chaos.
Christie managed the situation with tactical prowess, which changed his national image as a compassionate leader of the Blue state. He has also put aside party politics and welcomed President Obama open-armed into the Garden State at the height of the 2012 presidential run. Although it may have cost him some far-right conservative votes, Christie’s popularity transcended boundaries to on-the-fence independents and somewhere in the region of one third of all Jersey Democrats. Suffice to say, Christie trounced his opponent with a 60 per cent majority and looked set for the 2016 ticket, discussions of which had already begun.
As is the case in US politics, nothing stays rosy for long.
In the past couple of weeks emails have been released proving that the Christie administration used the gubernatorial office for vengeance against Fort Lee’s Mayor, Mark Sokolich by closing tollbooths onto the already congested George Washington Bridge into New York. All because Sokolich didn’t endorse Christie’s re-election.
While it is clear that Christie’s senior official Bridget Anne Kelly and Port Authority ally David Wildstein (who manages the bridge) were responsible, it still remains unclear the involvement, if any, by Christie himself. Kelly has since been fired whilst Wildstein resigned his post and the governor has apologised for the wrong doings of his staff.
What is undeniable is the damage that has been done to Christie’s bipartisan image, and worse the future of his presidential hopes in 2016. Since the revelations this month, several photo opportunities with town mayors and other municipal legislators have cancelled. The press is scrutinising Christie for answers; he claimed that the buck stops with him, because it is his administration. So how was he not aware?
The Republican ticket in recent years has become less and less decisive. While the Democrats slugged it out for the nomination, the GOP were able to select the top and bottom halves on their ticket with comparative ease. Since the inauguration of Sarah Palin onto the national platform the fissure between the Christian base, or “Values voters”, and those who are moderate in everything but fiscal conservatism has widened. The race will be tough, with former Vice President candidate Paul Ryan likely to run, as well as the hugely popular Tea Party idol Ted Cruz (whose Canadian “naturalisation” has yet to be disputed) and the standard bearers of the party. It is difficult to know exactly where Christie’s chances stood in such a race given the recent developments.
Romney was a strongly moderate conservative (until he started his campaign, anyway), but that simmered off the boil pretty quickly due to the majority of Republicans who were calling for action against the “socialists” in Washington. And with a party that doesn’t forgive such open controversy, it is becoming more and more probable that, should he pursue the nomination, his battle will be much harder than most polls would have suggested a month ago.
For the Democrats, the story is different. Names have been touted around since early 2013, but no one seems to stand a chance against a certain former Secretary of State.
And while the contest for the GOP ticket frames itself on a scene from The Hunger Games, Hillary Clinton has been able to sit back, thumbs a-twiddling, and enjoy the relatively easy ride she has before her.
For now, anyway.