Governor Chris Christie irritated conservatives on Tuesday when he announced he would expand his state’s Medicaid program, but two of his top political allies say the decision won’t affect his presidential chances.
Ken Langone, the billionaire Home Depot founder and influential Christie donor, and Tom Kean, the former New Jersey governor and longtime Christie mentor, remain bullish on his political future. In interviews with National Review Online, both men say Christie remains a leading contender for the Republican nomination.
“If the governor can expand Medicaid without disrupting his budget and without raising taxes, then I don’t have a problem,” Langone says. “To the critics, I say, ‘give me a break.’ If conservatives are going to criticize him for doing what’s right for his state, then we’re on our way to becoming a minority party.”
Langone says he and several other prominent donors think Christie has the best shot of winning a presidential general election, and they’ll stick with him, even if some conservatives start to rule out the 50-year-old governor. “He’s the future of the Republican party, and he’s practical, which is a good thing,” Langone explains. “He’s still the leader of the pack. He’s somebody who’s going to win reelection in a blue state and scare a lot of people away from the primary.”
Kean, a Garden State grandee and Christie confidant, agrees. “Christie made a sensible decision for New Jersey,” he says. “In a state like New Jersey, with a large number of people on Medicaid, it makes sense. He doesn’t make decisions thinking only about things down the road.”