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Inside the Beltway: Christie’s appetite for the White House

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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.

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.

GEEZER ALERT

Wooing the older and wiser? Perhaps the Republican Party can take that off its to-do list.

"Seniors — those aged 65 and older — have moved from a reliably Democratic group to a reliably Republican one over the past two decades. From 1992 through 2006, seniors had been solidly Democratic and significantly more Democratic than younger Americans. Over the last seven years, seniors have become less Democratic, and have shown an outright preference for the Republican Party since 2010," reports Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones, who based his conclusions on a huge tracking sample of respondents, numbering about 18,000 for each year in the study, or about 250,000 people.

And the numbers: In 1992, 53 percent of senior citizens identified as Democrats or leaned that way, 39 percent identified as Republicans or leaned Republican. The Dems were ahead by 14 percentage points, But the older and wiser among us have shifted their interest.

"Last year, 48 percent of seniors identified as or leaned Republican, and 45 percent Democratic, a three-point Republican advantage," Mr. Jones says.

NIGHTSTAND READING

Americans are chafing over the newly-extended Obamacare sign-up deadline, which more or less coincides with IRS tax deadlines. The Department of Health and Human Services predicts a sudden "surge" of interest, even as lawmakers argue over who is to blame for the confusion.

"The implementation of Obamacare is decided more by the whims of the White House political office than by the words written in the law. Creating chaos and uncertainty does not help families or individuals who have seen their plans canceled, who have lost access to their doctors and pediatricians, and who have seen their costs skyrocket," says House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

But there's always information to be had. FreedomWorks is offering a free booklet called "The Obamacare Autopsy," focusing on "harsh realities" of healthcare reform.

"Democrats have made a lot of promises to the American people, but the results are in," declares Patrick Hedger, the organization's policy analyst who lists the now familiar Obamacare woes: Billions of dollars added to the deficit, premiums raised by an average 41 percent, dropped plans, lost jobs and work hours.

"Democrats rammed this law through Congress, then hid from its realities behind a 2014 implementation date," Mr. Hedger observes. "Now that the law has proved to be disastrous, they're hiding again behind Internet memes and insulting overtures to young Americans like 'Brosurance' and pajama boy. FreedomWorks plans to fight through the noise by arming activists with the facts."

Find the booklet to read or download Here: Freedomworks.org/broken-promises.

SCIENCE CORNER

There have been warnings from scientists in past years that meat from the high-temperature barbecue can accumulate something called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Bad. Not good. The "PAHs" are associated with a cancer risk. But here's some happy news. A group of Portuguese researchers have determined that marinating that delectable meat in beer before it goes to the grill stems the effect of potential carcinogens in cooked meat

Ah, but some beers work better than others. The researchers grilled samples of pork marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner or a "black beer" ale, to well-done on a charcoal grill. The Black beer had the strongest effect, reducing the levels of eight major PAHs by more than half compared with unmarinated pork.

"The intake of beer marinated meat can be a suitable mitigation strategy," say the researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

POLL DU JOUR

84 percent of Americans say they "definitely" will vote in the 2014 midterm elections; 81 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents agree.

57 percent overall say they are "enthusiastic" about voting in 2014; 70 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents agree.

50 percent overall have been paying attention to the 2014 campaigns; 53 percent of Republicans, 46 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents agree.

39 percent overall would vote Republican if the election were today; 83 percent of Republicans, 3 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents agree.

39 percent overall would vote Democratic; 4 percent of Republicans, 85 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of independents agree.

17 percent overall either don't know or say "it depends"; 10 percent of Republicans, 11 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents agree.

Source: A CBS News poll of 1,047 U.S. adults conducted March 20-23.

Press releases and recipes to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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