Scott Rasmussen: The outsider’s message is a mainstream message
Following the widely panned Republican presidential debate on CNBC, the New York Times came out with an editorial calling on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to withdraw from the race. Much of the column was a typical partisan assault, but one line jumped out to highlight how little the Times editorial board understands the mood of the country.
“In eight minutes of speaking time, Mr. Christie said little of substance,” according to the editorial.
It’s true that Christie couldn’t match Senator Ted Cruz’s home run response calling out the moderators for the absurdity of their questions. And he couldn’t compete with Senator Marco Rubio’s outdueling of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
But Christie actually provided one of the most substantive moments of the debate. It came after Carl Quintanilla asked Bush a question about whether the federal government should regulate the rapidly growing world of daily fantasy sports. Bush replied cautiously that it’s “something that needs to be looked at in terms of regulation” but wasn’t sure who should do the regulating.
It’s hard to imagine many Republican voters basing their vote for a presidential nominee on the fantasy football question, but the fact that Bush was willing to entertain the idea provided a huge opening for the New Jersey governor. “Are we really talking about getting the government involved in fantasy football?” he exploded. “Wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt, we have people out of work, we have ISIS and al-Qaida attacking us and we’re talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?”
As if that wasn’t enough, “Seriously, how about this? How about we get the government to do what they are supposed to be doing, secure our borders, protect our people and support American values and American families. Enough on fantasy football, let people play, who cares!”
Christie took a silly question about a non-issue and used it to give voice to something that Republican voters have been screaming about for years. Rather than looking for ever more things for the government to do, why can’t politicians put a little bit of effort into making sure that government can do the basic things well?
Christie’s outburst articulated what may be the biggest issue of the 2016 campaign and the biggest difference between establishment politicians and the voters. Democratic Party officials often talk as if the federal government should run everything, and the only question is figuring out the right rules. They appear shocked by the notion that there are any constitutional or practical limits on what the government can and cannot do.
Many GOP voters have been waiting for someone to challenge this attitude the way that Christie did on the debate stage. Most Republican voters, many independents, and a fair number of Democrats, are fed up with federal government attempts to micro-manage the nation. They’re looking for someone whose first instinct towards every new expansion of government is to ask, “Are we really talking about this?” It’s an outsider’s message, but also a mainstream message.
Without Chris Christie at last week’s debate, that message would not have been heard.
For that alone, Christie’s involvement in the campaign is a plus for the Republican Party. He’s unlikely to win the nomination, but he’s improved the public dialogue.