Christie vs. Giuliani

Gov. Chris Christie fired what sounded like a shot against the early front runner for the 2016 Republican nomination last week:

“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.

There’s some value in Christie’s points, but they get lost in incendiary rhetoric.  Invoking September 11, 2001 and calling those with reservations about government overreach “dangerous” is similar to calling the Obama Administration “socialist” – the words are so far over the top that they no longer register with the average voter.

Those concerned with domestic spying and data mining programs rail against politicians who frame a choice between security and privacy.  Christie would have been smarter to echo such”false choice” rhetoric.  “There needn’t be a false choice between security and privacy – we can and must have aggressive, effective programs that smoke out terrorists that don’t violate our rights,” he might have said.  (Though, come to think of it, he probably shouldn’t use the word “needn’t.”  He’s got speechwriters for that, though.)

This type of language is much more inclusive, and that’s what Christie will need to get his 2016 efforts on track.  Sen. Rand Paul is ahead in the polls because people support his positions; a candidate who calls those positions “dangerous” will find it hard to win their support – even if he wins the nomination.

Christie has a good example just to his north, in the city for which his state is an oversize suburb.  Rudy Giuliani’s speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention argued for many specific policies that Paul would probably not agree with.  Yet the arguments were framed by a theme captured in one stand-out phrase: “Our party’s great contribution is to expand freedom.”  Giuliani was never a conservative darling, but with this line he at least let on that he understood where conservatives were coming from.

Giuliani did not simply argue that he was right while the other side was wrong; he argued that the other side should agree with him because his solutions offered the best chance to advance their goals.  It’s similar to the way Paul Ryan tried to frame entitlement reform as a way to preserve the safety net.

And it’s the way a candidate like Christie – who will , realistically, have difficulty proving conservative bona fides to many primary voters – will have to start talking if he wants to win the party’s nomination and the White House.

Tonight on CNN: “Ratings Grab” with Eliot Spitzer

Photo from

The Most Trusted Name in News is putting it’s prime time show in the hands of a guy who broke laws at night that he enforced by day.

Phil Donahue accused MSNBC of trying to “out-fox Fox” when it fired him in 2003.  He meant it as a slight to MSNBC’s political leanings, but it goes a little deeper than that. Fox’s format is based on a complement of breaking news during the day (often car chases and such) and heavy opinion and analysis during primetime.  (It should be noted that Donahue was 175 at the time MSNBC canceled him, though.)

There’s the formula for news success in primetime.  Fox got to the top of the ratings with O’Reilly and Hannity and Colmes (before Colmes bounced); MSNBC – which was all but dead in the early 2000s – rebounded with Olbermann and Maddow on the other side of the aisle.

Neither network’s success is purely ideological – each of those four programs features strong, unique personalities.  News channel viewers aren’t looking for news at all; they’re looking for people they either love or love to hate. Enter the Love Gov – who, despite the fact that he’ll be sitting opposite a Pulitzer Prize winner, will be the headliner on what is ostensibly a news show.

But will another personality show succeed?

If everyone in a shopping mall is selling shoes, and you open up a new shoe store, folks are going to need a compelling reason to leave their existing shoe store and come to yours – especially since they already have so many options.  And selling the same types of shoes as every other store doesn’t give you an advantage.  So the new show will have to have more than just a controversial name to bring in viewers.

Of course, if Spitzer interviews Marion Barry every now and then, CNN might have ratings gold on their hands.

Yes we can differentiate between crazy people

The Southern Poverty Law Center paints anarchist extremists with the same brush as tea partiers and small-government enthusiasts.  I wonder if they draw the same lines between President Barack Obama and New York State Senate candidate Hiram Monserrate.

Monserratte – or “Monster Rat,” according to the New York Daily News – is running for re-election to the state senate seat he was kicked out of last month for his unconventional domestic conflict resolution methods.

His campaign slogan for next week’s special election is “Yes We Can,” and his paraphernalia features the Obama ’08 logo prominently.  The DNC has told him to knock it off, but it’s not clear if there’s really anything they can do – at least, not in time for the election.  (And if they do, they better get their arms over their faces quick, Monserrate reportedly likes to get stabby with broken glass.)

One can either accept that there are crazy people in both parties or we can take the extremists on both ends as the norm, but certainly neither side has a monopoly.  Despite best efforts by either side to brand opponents by the lunatic fringe, crazy may be the only place to find true bipartisanship.

T’was the night before the Election…

Virginia: With Virginia’s election trending heavily toward Republican Bob McDonnell, Creigh Deeds has been running a new ad in the last week:

It continues a running theme for Deeds’ campaign: “Hey, look at the cool people who I hang out with!”  Unfortunately for him, attaching himself to other, more popular politicians hasn’t worked yet and likely won’t work tomorrow:

(In the meantime, NotLarrySabato re-posted and updated an older post that made the case that Gov. Tim Kaine is the Democrats’ version of former GOP Gov. Jim Gilmore.  It’s  an interesting read on VA politics.)

New Jersey: Gov. Corzine is following the same strategy as Creigh Deeds by hitching his wagon to the Obama train.  It’s certainly a better idea than bringing up a failed proposal to lease New Jersey’s most famous tourist destination, the Jersey Turnpike – a likely interview misstep which he has since backed off of.  It’s a hollow strategy that may drag Corzine over the finish line, but speaks volumes for Democrats’ supposed intellectual edge in the battle of ideas.  There are two other strategies to expect in a New Jersey race as well: voter fraud and litigation.  Look for Corzine to either pull out a close victory at the polls or file as many lawsuits as it takes to be declared the winner.

New York 23: This has suddenly become a fashionable race drawing lots on national attention from both sides, so you can’t really call out Democrat Bill Owens for following the same playbook as Corzine and Deeds.  In fact, the big story line in the idea that the third-party challenge is evidence of conflict within the Republican Party – but then again, what isn’t?  The real story is that Dede Scozzafava’s defection has not resulted in a rush of support for Owens.  With heavily motivated support and momentum, the smart money here is on Doug Hoffman.

Because I switched to WordPress, this will never apply to me

New York is investigating whether a blogger is considered self-employed or unemployed.  The decision hinges on the buck-per-day revenues she generated from Google ads on her blog.  When the former lawyer reported the revenue, the state launched an investigation into whether she still deserved unemployment benefits.

The site is still up, and the ads have been removed – which means New York’s Department of Labor succeeded in keeping a laid-off lawyer from experimenting with new revenue streams which could have lead to gainful self-employment.  Good job!