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August 15, 2013 4:22 PM Ideology Is For Losers

By Ed Kilgore

The more you listen to Chris Christie, the more you have to wonder if he’s the political equivalent of a catchy Top 40 song: sounds pretty good for a while, but gets tedious and even abrasive after you’ve listened to it twenty or thirty times.

Here’s a report on Christie’s most direct rap yet about the Republican Party’s future, at a closed RNC meeting, per CNN’s Peter Hamby:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie planted himself firmly in the Republican Party’s establishment wing Thursday with a pugnacious speech calling on his party to focus on pragmatism rather than ideology and crippling internal debates.
“We are not a debating society,” Christie told a lunchtime audience at the Republican National Committees summer meeting in Boston. “We are a political operation that needs to win.”
The speech marked Christie’s first-ever appearance at a meeting of the RNC.
Christie’s remarks, relayed to a reporter by GOP officials who attended the closed-press event, were interpreted by many here as another jab at Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a potential rival for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
Christie and Paul tangled earlier this summer after the New Jersey governor criticized Paul’s libertarian-tinged worldview as “esoteric” and “intellectual,” drawing a series of pointed rebukes from Paul and his allies.
“I am in this business to win. I don’t know why you are in it. I am in this to win,” Christie said at the RNC luncheon.
“I think we have some folks who believe that our job is to be college professors,” he said. “Now college professors are fine I guess. Being a college professor, they basically spout out ideas that nobody does anything about. For our ideas to matter we have to win. Because if we don’t win, we don’t govern. And if we don’t govern all we do is shout to the wind. And so I am going to do anything I need to do to win.”
By most accounts, Christie’s remarks were met with enthusiasm by the nearly 200 state GOP chairmen, staffers and party insiders who attend these quarterly meetings to plot election strategy and hunt for business.

Now there’s zero question “electability” is going to be Christie’s strong suit if he does run for president in 2016. He probably won’t have to keep reminding Republicans of that; they do read polls, even if they like to ignore the ones that tell them stuff they don’t want to hear. And he sure won’t have to remind the kind of people he was talking to at the RNC meeting, who probably spend a perilous amount of time imagining the power and money they will command if Republicans do seize total power in Washington.

If he’s smart, he’ll just stipulate that, and try to burnish his own conservative ideological credentials, just as his “pragmatist” predecessors John McCain and Mitt Romney did before their successful bids for the presidential nomination. Conservatives are not in the mood to be told their “ideas,” or their fantasies of a nation where unions don’t exist and “job-creators” walk tall and those people stop being able to trade votes for federal benefits, are a lot of egghead vaporizing. The critical bulk of Republican caucus and primary voters are only going to tolerate Christie if he’s the practical means to the ends defined by people like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan. If he has contempt for those ends, then all the favorable poll numbers in the world won’t save him. But you get the sense that contempt is one emotion Chris Christie has a real hard time disguising, and that could be his undoing.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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