Christie would not transform New Jersey into a presidential swing state — a persistent but hopeless Republican dream. But he could contribute to the repositioning of the Romney campaign in two important, seemingly contradictory ways. Christie would provide an infusion of blue-collar combativeness, which is foreign to Romney and pleasing to GOP conservatives. At the same time, Christie would represent a move to the ideological center. He is not a global warming skeptic. He supported an assault weapons ban in his state. He is an immigration moderate and has friendly relations with New Jersey’s Muslim community.
Gerson refers to Christie as a politician combining “tea party tone” with a moderate record. It wouldn’t say much for Tea Partiers if adopting a sufficiently combative tone were all that was needed to satisfy them. Selecting Christie as VP would be an outstanding example of paying meaningless lip service to the concerns of most Republican voters, and at the same time his aggressive style would likely alienate persuadable voters before they ever learn about his record. Though he doesn’t realize it, Gerson has helped explain why Christie would be an undesirable running mate: he likes to attract attention to himself, he needlessly stirs up controversy in the process, his policy record is unappealing to the ideological voters concerned about such things, and his personality is unappealing to the non-ideological voters oblivious to most details of policy.
It is a little strange that Gerson points out Christie’s “friendly relations” with Muslims in New Jersey as one of his political assets. This has already become one of the main problems hard-line anti-jihadists inside the GOP have with Christie. Considering how quickly the Romney campaign dropped its foreign policy spokesman under a little pressure from a handful of social conservatives, it is hard to imagine that Romney would want to provoke the ire of these activists by choosing someone several of them have already publicly identified as unacceptably “weak” on jihadism. Someone might object that Romney wouldn’t care what these activists want, but what matters most is that Romney does not want to appear “soft” on jihadism in any way. I would also point out that Walid Phares is one of Romney’s foreign policy advisers, and it is doubtful that someone who takes Phares’ views seriously will also be inclined to ignore anti-jihadist complaints about Christie’s associations.