On Friday, Robert Costa at The Washington Post reported that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie disclosed his 2016 platform to a group of Republican policy analysts on Monday. Christie told them the centerpiece of his campaign will be calling for overhauling Social Security and Medicare. Christie outlined his plans on a conference call with a select group of Republican insiders, including former Bush administration officials, and Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign policy director, Lanhee Chen. Governor Christie told the group, that he planned to propose sweeping reforms to Social Security and Medicare.
Christie supporters have already begun circulating copies of a 2011 speech the Governor made at the American Enterprise Institute, where he urged Congress to raise the retirement age for Social Security benefits eligibility. In the same speech, he told Republican members of Congress that if they did not work to overhaul Medicare, he would be helping their Republican primary opponents in the next election.
Governor Christie, originally touted by the press as the “moderate” candidate in the GOP field, is desperately trying to stay relevant in the Republican primaries. Chris Christie had hoped that battling the teacher’s unions in New Jersey would have made him popular with the right-wing base. However, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stole Christie’s anti-union thunder by entering the race. No matter how mean Chris Christie is to school teachers, he can’t seem to project himself as the most anti-union candidate when Scott Walker is still around.
Governor Christie is lagging badly behind Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and even political neophyte, Ben Carson in the national polls of presumed 2016 Republican primary voters. With his prospects flagging, and his popularity with conservatives under water, Christie has decided to abandon whatever pretenses he had left of being a moderate. He has decided to run as a puppet for the billionaire Koch Brothers, in the hopes that he can somehow out right-flank his GOP opponents on the issue of “entitlement reform”.
While Christie’s proposal may win accolades from budget hawks and a handful of extreme right-wing economists, they aren’t likely to improve his presidential prospects any. Although Republican voters love anti-government and anti-entitlement rhetoric, they get squeamish when politicians actually target specific programs that benefit them directly.
Because of that disconnect, polls over the last five years, show that most Republicans, and even the vast majority of self-identified tea party voters, consistently oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Campaigning directly on slashing Social Security and Medicare is a ruinous political strategy. Governor Christie is welcome to try it, but if he does, his long odds of winning will get even longer.