Chris Christie is a nationally popular Republican governor of a blue state in the Northeast, a region where the GOP barely remains competitive. He has a 74 percent approval rating, in a state that Barack Obama carried by 18 percentage points. In fact, no Republican presidential candidate has managed to carry New Jersey since 1988.
Yet Christie has been pointedly NOT invited to speak to the highly influential Conservative Political Action Conference, which meets in Washington, D.C. next month. The confab is widely considered an essential showcase for Republicans with presidential aspirations.
Bobby Jindal will be there. A speech by Ted Cruz will close the convention. The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has a place of honor on the program. Under the rubric “America’s Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives,” Republican up-and-comers Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin — wait, Sarah Palin? — will thrill convention-goers.
And for anyone who has grown nostalgic for those wonderfully intelligent, provocative 2012 Republican presidential debates, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum will play featured roles.
But no Chris Christie. According to CPAC organizers, the man has proved himself too liberal to be extended an invitation. The pristine conservative minds of CPAC attendees must not be offended by exposure to someone who dares to venture outside the approved ideology, even if that someone might offer the party a way out of the political wilderness. For much the same reason, the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud, two gay Republican groups, have once again been banned outright from the convention.
So, same as it ever was.
– Jay Bookman