- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

He is one of the headliners during a glittering GOP gathering that begins Thursday in Las Vegas. That would be a decidedly slimmer, more cheerful New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a featured speaker during the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring leadership meeting, staged at the swank Venetian Hotel and shepherded by billionaire and major party donor Sheldon Adelson. On the agenda: Poker, policy and strategy, the organizers say. It is a debut of sorts for Mr. Christie, and a subtle rebranding.

Through lapband surgery and obvious determination, he has lost 100 pounds in the last 13 months, placing him around 320 pounds. He appears to be on a weight loss trajectory that could put him at 220 pounds or less by 2016. This is a commitment that strongly suggests Mr. Christie still has an appetite for the White House. Some New Jersey voters say they already miss the chubby tough guy they once knew. But Mr. Christie, 51, could present a formidable foe on the presidential campaign trail.


SEE ALSO: Gov. Christie’s internal review of ‘Bridgegate’ clears him of wrongdoing: report


Imagine him: Sleek suit, American flag pin, power tie, determined expression, terse sound bites, the signature Jersey-style authority fully intact but reconfigured to reach a wider audience. With the “Bridgegate” matter moving from the front pages, the Garden State governor is poised for a rebound, and to perhaps regain those soaring favorability numbers he enjoyed just four months ago.

And the 2016 equation? The aforementioned Mr. Adelson is said to weary of maverick candidates, ready for a known quantity and very keen on Jeb Bush as a potential presidential hopeful of choice. So for now, perhaps the future could look like this: Bush/Christie 2016. For now, anyway.


FILL-UP AT THE GAS STATION

Sen. John McCain has found a truly fabulous sound bite: “Russia is now a gas station masquerading as a country.”

The Arizona Republican has become very attached to this 10-word comment. And why not? The gas station theme is a hit, and has earned him much press. It is not a new phenomenon, however. This is the same line he used during a trip to Ukraine in mid-March. It also found its way into a New York Times op-ed, with embellishments.

Russia is not a great power on par with America. It is a gas station run by a corrupt, autocratic regime,” Mr. McCain wrote.

He got all gas station-y with CNN upon his return, telling the network, “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country. It’s kleptocracy, it’s corruption.”

Now others want gas station glory.

During an appearance on the Senate floor Wednesday, Mr. McCain again went gas station, with frills.

“I have no illusions or worry about the long-term future of Russia. Russia is now a gas station masquerading as a country,” he told his peers.

Then someone else chimed in.

“They are an oil-and-gas company masquerading as a country,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham said during his turn at the podium, adding an little something extra for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The value system of Mr. Putin is that of a KGB colonel,” the South Carolina Republican declared.

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