Blue-state New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie's moderate-to-conservative position changes are reportedly leaving the GOP presidential contender open to the kind of attacks that once plagued former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"The main challenge is when you're a successful blue state governor, because you focused on results and progress for your state, that's what puts you on a national stage," Kevin Madden, a Republican consultant and top Romney aide in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, tells the Boston Globe.
"But the challenge is that now, inside a primary, so much of the debate is focused on ideological purity. And the challenge is how you balance that in a way that still maintains a level of authenticity."
Charges of flip-flopping damaged Romney during his two presidential campaigns — critics showed up at campaign events holding giant flip-flop sandals, the Globe reports — as he abandoned moderate positions on abortion, gun control, and taxes.
"You can be the most conservative Republican in New Jersey — and Christie is not — and you wouldn't be considered a conservative nationally," legislative reporter Michael Symons tells the Globe.
Had he run for governor of New Jersey as conservatively as he's running for president, he wouldn't have gotten elected."
Christie calls criticism of his revised stances — former ally and New Jersey lawmaker Richard Merkt blasts them as "weather vane characteristics" — "old-time, old-style politics," and plans to defend them in his State of the State speech Tuesday, the Globe reports.
Christie has gone from support to opposition for national education standards
, a pathway to citizenship
for illegal immigrants, and pro-choice.
He's also switched from wanting to preserve a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons to touting how he's made it easier in New Jersey to obtain gun permits.
The changes have his GOP rivals zeroing in; a super PAC for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio attacks Christie as too liberal,
while the National Journal
reports another one supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich hits Christie's economic record, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush blasts Christie's gubernatorial record.
"My feeling is that everybody in life has the right to evolve. It's one thing if the evolution seems to be artificial and driven by opportunity rather than conviction," New Hampshire GOP consultant and Kasich adviser Tom Rath tells the Globe.
"But we cannot deny the right of people to grow and change in office."
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