New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is off to a poor start in filling the Senate seat of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat who died a few days ago at 89.
By scheduling a special Senate election in October -- mere weeks from a regularly scheduled election gubernatorial election in which Christie himself is on the ballot -- Christie reveals an obvious fear of being able to defend conservative principle in an election in which Democrats might be expected to swarm the polls to elect, presumably, Senate front-runner and Democrat, the Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
But a moment of truth for any future campaign for the GOP presidential nomination will come with whomever Christie appoints to fill the seat until the October election.
Will it be an accomplished conservative? Does Christie understand the symbolism inherent in what will probably be a seat-warming exercise?
Or will Christie just go the ho-hum route of appointing some hapless New Jersey pol whose main attribute will be not detracting from Christie’s own re-election race. Bluntly put: Is this all about Chris Christie? Or is it about conservative principle?
The other day we suggested the appointment of Fox host Eric Bolling, a conservative and New Jersey resident.
Here’s two more suggestions, the first from TAS reader Mike Thompson.
• Princeton Professor Robert P. George, the famous New Jersey Ivy League university’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence. The New York Times calls George the “Conservative-Christian Big Thinker.” Wrote the Times:
He has parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy into real political influence. Glenn Beck, the Fox News talker and a big George fan, likes to introduce him as “one of the biggest brains in America,” or, on one broadcast, “Superman of the Earth.” Karl Rove told me he considers George a rising star on the right and a leading voice in persuading President George W. Bush to restrict embryonic stem-cell research. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told me he numbers George among the most-talked-about thinkers in conservative legal circles. And Newt Gingrich called him “an important and growing influence” on the conservative movement, especially on matters like abortion and marriage.”
To hold a Senate seat for a handful of months in New Jersey, Robert P. George would be an excellent choice.
• Steve Forbes, the New Jersey resident and former presidential candidate. Forbes is, famously, of the Forbes magazine family and today is a regular on the suitably named Forbes on Fox business show hosted by Fox’s David Asman. Forbes is well known as an advocate of the flat tax, an argument that is receiving more attention these days as the IRS scandal continues to explode. Forbes is a Reagan-Kemp supply-sider and free trader, supporting health savings accounts and school vouchers while opposing opposes gun control.
This Senate vacancy is surely going to be considered a small but significant test for any Christie presidential run. Is Governor Christie, as the setting of that October election indicates, all about Governor Christie? Or is he about conservatism?
Thus far in this New Jersey mini-drama Christie has stumbled badly. The kind of seat-warmer he chooses will send a serious signal for 2016 and whether the New Jersey Governor will be seen as just the latest Romney/McCain/Bush/Dole/Ford/Nixon -- or something else.
Christie is already behind the eight ball.
Will he go bold and conservative for this pick? With a Robert P. George, Steve Forbes, or Eric Bolling?
Or do what that October election date selection already indicates – going safe and moderate GOP? Instantly and perhaps fatally taking him out of serious consideration by conservatives.