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Mr. McDonnell, though, has come under fire from Mr. Norquist and others for agreeing as part of a transportation plan to a net tax increase — though his defenders note that while his plan raised some taxes, it also cut others. Some conservatives also are not happy that Mr. McDonnell agreed to set up a commission to explore the expansion of Medicaid coverage under Mr. Obama’s health care reform

Mr. Christie, meanwhile, bucked his party in accepting the Medicaid expansion, lambasted House Republican leaders for not moving faster to pass $60 million in Superstorm Sandy relief funding, and showered Mr. Obama with compliments shortly before the election for the way he responded to the superstorm.

Neither Mr. McDonnell nor Mr. Christie appeared at the American Conservative Union’s 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

Some, though, have been quick to point out that Mr. Christie’s charisma and ability to pursue Republican reforms in a traditionally blue state makes him a force to be reckoned with on the national stage.

“Here is a guy who won a blue state, took on the teachers union and made it clear he is friend of education and teachers,” Mr. Norquist said.

“From him, all these other states decided they could take on the public sector unions because he had walked out on the ice and it was thick enough to do it. You cannot underestimate him for going first and making it work.”