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January 30, 2014 10:57 AM Mini-Ohios, Mini-Floridas

By Ed Kilgore

I haven’t been following the various Christie investigations very closely, so yesterday’s plenary update from Kevin Drum was very helpful. Kevin thinks the “noose is tightening” around Christie. I dunno, but one item in the New York Times coverage he highlights shows a very dangerous mindset in Christie’s circle:

His campaign called them “the Top 100,” the swing towns that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey wanted to win as he prepared for a re-election campaign. Capturing these towns, sometimes referred to as mini-Ohios or mini-Floridas, would validate the governor’s argument that he would be the most broadly appealing Republican choice for president in 2016.
Staff members in the governor’s office created tabbed and color-coded dossiers on the mayors of each town — who their friends and enemies were, the policies and projects that were dear to them — that were bound in notebooks for the governor to review in his S.U.V. between events.
Long after most of the State House had been shuttered for the night, Mr. Christie’s aides worked on spreadsheets, documenting calls and meetings with key players in the towns — one Republican called it “political Moneyball” — as the governor tried to win endorsements and friends.

Now it’s not all that shocking that the highly political aides to a highly political governor being touted as his party’s presidential savior would be thinking about higher office. That’s not what’s weird. It’s the idea that daily decisions being made on state issues in state government were being made on the basis of how it would generate an electoral tally big enough to impress conservative activists in Iowa and South Carolina. Clearly, Christie’s people were very proud of their prowess at making two-cushion shots off the people of their state:

As a group, Mr. Christie’s aides were supremely confident about their ability to manage the Legislature for his longer-term political goals. “We’re playing 3-D chess while they’re playing checkers,” one adviser boasted last year after Mr. Christie called a special election to fill a United States Senate seat rather than have Cory A. Booker, a popular Democrat, be on the November ballot.

Once again, this kind of arrogant cynicism sounds a lot like the people around a certain president whose determination to run up the score in 1972 led them all into (and in some cases beyond) the shadow of the hoosegow.

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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