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Christie Has Yet to Gain Trust of GOP Right

Christie Has Yet to Gain Trust of GOP Right

By    |   Monday, 13 October 2014 08:27 AM

Social and religious conservatives represent the biggest obstacle to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's 2016 presidential prospects and have widespread skepticism about his ideology.

According to The New York Times, Christie has also done little to court this group, which is reinforcing the distance between the two camps.

"He's not one that this community is clamoring for," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said of those who attended the conservative Voter Values Summit last month. "Christie does not connect with them."

Last year, Christie was notably not invited to address the group.

The disconnect may represent a broader tension within the Republican Party as conservatives try to prescreen potential candidates before some have even announced their candidacies.

Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union that refused to allow Christie to attend its annual convention after the governor praised President Barack Obama's handling of Hurricane Sandy, told The Times that conservatives, "used to give passes to Republicans who were elected in areas like the Northeast," but now, "passes are no longer issued with as much frequency."

Social issues such as abortion and traditional marriage continue to drive the agenda for conservatives who are a strong and mobilized voting bloc, The Times said.

When speaking to a religious group at a meeting in July, Christie emphasized issues about taking care of the poor, but two religious leaders who attended the meeting suggested that it would not be enough to win the backing of religious conservatives.

"The idea that those issues have been transcended by caring for kids in failing schools and prison reform — that's a misreading," Russell Moore, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, told The Times.

In interviews with almost two dozen prominent social conservatives and leaders of family values groups, The Times found that while Christie's pro-life and anti-gay marriage stances pass the litmus test, there is a widespread and a deep-seated distrust of his stances on other key issues.

Specifically, he has drawn criticism for his support of the Common Core, his refusal to sign a law that would have prevented therapists from trying to discourage homosexual tendencies in children, and his refusal to appeal a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. 

"A tremendous mistake," Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, told The Times.

His judicial appointments have also caused displeasure among the right, which believes he has not appointed enough social conservatives to the bench. He has been attacked in billboards and ads by the Judicial Crisis Network, a group that argues he could not be trusted to appoint justices to the Supreme Court if he became president.

"He'd be the same kind of disaster as president that he was as governor," Carrie Severino, the group's head counsel told The Times.

To some extent Christie has shown little concern about whether he fits with conservative voters, and his behavior has at times suggested that he sees his independence from the conservative mold an asset to his brand.

The Times noted that when he was asked this spring about the extent of his conservatism he said, "I just act like myself and people take it or leave it, and I'm completely content with that."

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Social and religious conservatives represent the biggest obstacle to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's 2016 presidential prospects and have widespread skepticism about his ideology.
Chris Christie, presidential race, Voter Values Summit, conservatives
Monday, 13 October 2014 08:27 AM
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