As these "experts" and Assemblyman Rick Merkt have been saying, neither Chris Christie nor Steve Lonegan can deliver on their promises to New Jersey alone if elected. The eventual GOP gubernatorial nominee is going to need cooperation with many others to get elected, and cooperation, however reluctant, with the legislature and the Supreme Court to fix New Jersey's broken government after taking office.
That is why I am voting for Chris Christie on Tuesday.
Christie has demonstrated that he is a talented leader that can get the job done. He demonstrated as much as U.S. Attorney and he has demonstrated it during the primary campaign.
I was skeptical about Christie at the beginning of this race. That the establishment, and by that I don't mean the county committee members at conventions as Chris said during his first interview with me, I mean the county chairmen, the moneyed interests of the GOP and the members of the legislature, were nearly unanimous in their support of him concerned me.
The NJ GOP failed miserably when it last controlled Trenton. They have been completely out maneuvered by the Democrats since. I feared that Chris was just another Whitman/DiFrancesco/Franks/Forrester/Zimmer type Republican. I feared that he might not have what it takes to win against Corzine's money and Cryan's machine. More importantly, I feared that he might not have the mettle to govern in a way that will break up the status quo that is choking us and implement the badly needed reforms if he did get elected.
Chris has put those fears to rest. I am convinced that he has the qualities needed to beat Corzine. I am convinced that he has what it takes to govern New Jersey, to put us back on the path the prosperity and an extraordinary quality of life.
I believe that Chris has the intellect, temperament, vision and spine to stand up to the special interests on both sides of the aisle and to do so without a bloodbath.
Christie will appeal to Independents and Democrats. That is not a bad thing. Nor does it make him a "RINO."
They way he speaks of education, particularly in the Abbott districts, is what convinces me of that appeal. While the other candidates speak of equalizing education funding throughout the State, Chris is alone in addressing the "moral failure", i.e., the kids are not getting educated, as well as the financial failure of the Abbott experiment. Lonegan and Merkt are correct in addressing the excessive money wasted, but only Christie is sharing a vision of getting good value for our dollars while bringing excessive and wasteful spending under control.
Unlike some other pundits and critics, I don't have a problem with Christie's "lack of specifics." On the contrary, I like that he has used broad stokes to describe the direction that he intends to take New Jersey. I admire his discipline staying on message and in refusing to say things before he is believes it is appropriate to do so.
What good are specifics in a campaign anyway? They arm the opposition and the voters, often correctly, don't believe them anyway. Forrester's "30 in 3" was a sound bite to describe a complicated plan that was faulty to begin with. The math didn't work. Corzine answered with "40 in 4." The GOP has already started hammering him with his old ads.
The specifics of Lonegan's flat tax proposal has been the Achilles heal of his campaign. It is not a bad plan. But the Christie campaign, when it decided it need to engage Lonegan and make him famous, exploited the political weakness of Steve's flat tax plan, i.e. that it raises taxes on 50% of tax payers if you believe Lonegan or 70% of tax payers if you believe Christie.
The other candidates, Steve Lonegan and Rick Merkt have run disappointing campaigns.
I had high hopes for Lonegan. Win or lose, at the beginning of the campaign I hoped he would be positioned to be a meaningful leader within the NJ GOP when the primary was over. But the bridge burning, sophomoric campaign he has waged has made him unelectable in the general election. If Steve is to have a meaningful role in the GOP going forward, it will only be as a result of Christie's generosity. Christie would be wise to be so generous, but no one could blame him if he just let's Steve fade or rant away.
As for Rick Merkt, he's a smart guy with good ideas, but he doesn't want to be Governor. The only thing he's done to even be mentioned is to gather enough signatures to stay on the ballot. I don't know what Merkt's real motivation has been for this campaign, but becoming Governor was obviously not it.
Nominating Chris Christie is the best choice for New Jersey, and the best choice for the GOP.
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Pallone's Town Hall Meeting, Red Bank, August 25, 2009