- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The day after a presidential election is a time for soul-searching for the losing party. Republicans need to look in the mirror and seriously analyze the troublesome reality that they have forgotten how to win important elections. With unemployment stuck around 8 percent, economic growth basically nonexistent and the nation suffocating from record debt, the White House should have been the GOP’s for the taking in 2012. The elephants need a new dynamic leader. It’s vital they don’t pick a RINO.

The biggest bull in the herd is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The moderate party establishment naturally gravitates toward this type of Republican in Name Only (RINO) because of his liberal positions on social issues. Mr. Christie took on the Garden State’s teacher unions, but it otherwise takes a lot of hunting to find other issues on which the governor supports the conservative line. He has a liberal record on guns, abortion, homosexual marriage and global warming, for example.

Mr. Christie is so unorthodox for his party that on the day after the election, Republicans were speculating whether he might be appointed to President Obama’s Cabinet in the upcoming second term. The governor’s conduct in the important week before Election Day had insiders scratching their heads wondering if he was purposely trying to help the president’s re-election effort or whether Mr. Christie is simply politically tone-deaf. As the Obama administration was taking incoming fire for its mismanagement of emergency-relief efforts in response to Hurricane Sandy, Mr. Christie handed Mr. Obama a big gift in the form of photo-ops, public hugs and gratuitously complimentary statements about the job done by the opposing party’s standard-bearer.

“The fact of the matter is that if the president of the United States comes here and he is willing to help my people, and he does it, then I’m going to say nice things about him because he’s earned it,” Mr. Christie said of his 11th-hour election-year praise of Mr. Obama. He later testily added, “People care more about getting things done than they care about partisanship.” That generic statement might be true sometimes, but the future of the country is at stake in a presidential race. Beating an opponent that’s bad for America necessitates a hard-fought partisan campaign. A love-in with the liberal president might generate some short-term gains in the form of federal handouts, but that comes at great cost to the future by bolstering the incumbent’s claim that he’s an effective leader who deserves four more years.

Mr. Christie has long had a reputation for not reciprocating assistance others have given him and for mostly being in it for himself. That certainly was the message sent when operatives leaked the rumor a few days before the election that the New Jerseyan had been Mitt Romney’s first choice for running mate. This served the triple purpose of distancing the governor from a potential loss on Tuesday, portraying conservative Rep. Paul Ryan, the actual vice-presidential nominee, as comparatively ineffective on the campaign trail, and implying the GOP ticket would have fared better with Mr. Christie on it. Some will be tempted by that argument in 2016. Republicans would do better to build up a leader who actually agrees with the party’s platform.

Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times and coauthor of “Bowing to Beijing” (Regnery, 2011).