Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo wrote an insightful article last week, Chris Christie and the Distorting Lens of New York Media Dominance. It answers the question, “Why is so much made of these northeastern Republicans when they never have any hope in a national primary?” There is a lot to his answer. Basically: so much of the media establishment — including conservative flagships — is located in the northeast. He also noted that this is where most of the moneyed Republican base is. But, “It’s just not where the voters come from.”
As everyone should know, this is the standard problem for the Republican Party. It is committed to the interests of Wall Street. But that doesn’t win elections. The Republican base voter is mostly interested in social issues. The truth is that Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani are extremely conservative. “But they are usually not terribly focused on the evangelicalism-tinged social issues that drive Republican party identification in its heartlands.” So these guys might be loved by Wall Street, but they are like the Southern Strategy without the south: they aren’t going to win elections, even if northern Republican voters rather like them.
I agree with all of this. But I think there is another aspect to it. It has to do with the Professional Centrists. These are the people, who represent the foundation of the commentariat, who are always and forever looking for a “third way.” By definition, the Republicans are too conservative and the Democrats are too liberal. And we know it is definitional, because these people so often call on the two parties to compromise on what turns out to already be Democratic policy. But even if it weren’t for this, how can someone look at both the Democratic and Republican Parties and how much more conservative they’ve become over the last 50 years and think, “Sure, the Republicans are too conservative, but the Democrats are too liberal!”?
For these kinds of pundits, the Republicans from blue states will always have a special glow. It’s simply because those Republicans can’t afford to look like rattle snake handlers. But since the pundits don’t care about actual policy, they can focus on the way that people like Christie and Giuliani seem like regular people (in the sense of “like people who upper class pundits know”). What’s more, they seem less conservative than the likes of Ted Cruz — even though they aren’t. So it allows these Professional Centrists to claim that these Republicans are centrists. It’s axiomatic: given that Democrats are too liberal and Republicans are too conservative, any Republican who they decide is less conservative than the Republican Party generally must be a centrist or moderate. QED.