I know a bunch of my readers dismiss my friend David Frum as a RINO, but I disagree; he’s often a great diagnostician of what ails Republicans. That’s one of the reasons I’m surprised to see him botch it so badly in his column today:
What lessons will Republicans draw? You might think that the impending defeats in New York and New Jersey would drive home the need to broaden the Republican coalition. A candidate like Hoffman would have been the better candidate for New York’s 23rd CD; a candidate like Daggett the better candidate for suburban New Jersey. Republicans have to find ways to accommodate both types of candidates and both kinds of constituencies.
But the risk is that the party will draw a very different conclusion. From the New York experience, Republicans will be tempted to draw the lesson: Always nominate the more conservative candidate. From New Jersey: We need to drive pro-environmental fiscal moderates out of our party and into the Democratic Party where they belong!
He’s right on Hoffman, but completely wrong on the key distinctions between Daggett and Christie. Daggett is thriving on “a pox on both your houses” cynicism and populist ideas that border on wish-fulfillment (“Abolish pensions and health care benefits for part-time legislators, aides and political appointees”). His rise in the polls is largely fueled by the negative back-and-forth campaigning between the two major-party candidates, and you can guess which one is going more negative: the incumbent with an indefensible record.
Christie’s problem in New Jersey isn’t an inability to assemble a sufficiently broad coalition, or that he’s too much of a social conservative (that deafening sound you hear is pro–Steve Lonegan social conservatives scoffing). His primary problem is that Jon Corzine spent about $19 million in television and radio ads suggesting that Christie wants women to die of breast cancer so insurance companies can have higher profits. Let’s think of all of the potential candidates in New Jersey who could emerge from $19 million in negative radio and television ads in a matter of weeks unscathed:
1) Bruce Springsteen
2) James Gandolfini
3) Captain C. B. “Sully” Sullenberger.
That’s about it.