TIME 2016 Election

Romney Says Chance He Runs In 2016 Is ‘One Of A Million’

NBC

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday put the odds of his mounting a third bid for the White House at “one of a million.”

The former Massachusetts governor told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he did not think he is well positioned to take on the expected Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and referenced this famous scene from 1994’s Dumb and Dumber when pressed.

“Well, you know, let’s say all the guys that were running all came together and said, ‘Hey, we’ve decided we can’t do it, you must do it,'” Romney said. “That’s the one of the million we’re thinking about.”

“I just want to confirm you’re telling me that we’ve got a chance there,” Hewitt asked. “The Dumb and Dumber, one of a million,” Romney replied.

Some in the Republican establishment have called on Romney to mount a repeat candidacy, arguing that the GOP needs an established figure to take on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Backers have pointed to recent polls which give Romney an edge over Obama were the 2012 election to be repeated today. Supporters have also cited foreign policy developments that they argue vindicate Romney’s mocked-at-the-time warnings about Russia and China.

“The reason I came to the conclusion I did, which is this is not the right time for me to run, is because of my belief that someone else stands a better chance of winning than I do,” Romney said. “Had that not been the case, had I believed I would actually be best positioned to beat Hillary Clinton, then I would be running. But I actually believe that someone new that is not defined yet–someone who perhaps is from the next generation–will be able to catch fire, potentially, build a movement, and be able to beat Hillary Clinton.”

Romney has raised eyebrows with a nationwide travel and fundraising schedule on behalf of Republicans this fall, an effort Romney confidants say was born out of his desire to thank Republicans for supporting him in 2012–not in an attempt to earn their backing for 2016. Romney’s 2012 running-mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, told Hewitt in an interview Monday that he would welcome a repeat bid by Romney.

Romney said he would “hope” that he’d be a better candidate if he ran a third time. “But at the same time, there are people who are not yet known by the American public who have extraordinary records, great capability, Paul Ryan being one of them, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio,” he said, listing off some of the Republicans known to be mulling 2016 White House bids. “Of course, people are getting to know Chris Christie. Jeb Bush, they don’t know Jeb Bush as the governor of Florida, and the kind of record he has and had there.”

Romney left Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul off his list of strong contenders, going on to say that he disagrees with those in his party who are pushing for the United States to disengage from the world. Romney pledged he would “continue to speak out on issues of significance as I see them, and hopefully be able to convince the people who are running from our party to adopt policies that encompass foreign policy and keeping America safe.”

In the interview, Romney also said he would be uninterested in serving as the running-mate for the eventual GOP nominee. “I would always be happy to serve my country in any way that I was called upon to do,” Romney said. “But that’s not a job I would seek. I was seeking the presidency, not the vice presidency.”

Listen to the interview here.

TIME New Jersey

Watch Chris Christie Get Totally Defensive About Being Friends With Bruce Springsteen

Chris + Bruce 4Ever

Correction applied Wednesday, August 20

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie lost his cool Tuesday after a state resident suggested that the Bruce Springsteen superfan might not be in the Boss’s good graces.

After being asked about a rumor that Springsteen had requested Christie stop using his music at his rallies (a rumor that has not been substantiated), Christie totally freaked, as seen in this video from NJ.com.

“No. Never did that. No, you’re wrong about that,” Christie said. “Bruce has never asked me to do that. He never has. You’re wrong.”

The New Jersey resident then asked about whether he had been dancing with Bon Jovi in the Hamptons, prompting Christie to remind her that he has many celebrity friends besides Springsteen.

“I wasn’t dancing with Bon Jovi, actually, I was dancing with Jamie Foxx,” he said. “So if you’re gonna be cute, we should get the story right.”

But of all his famous friends, the Boss is Christie’s BFF. In fact, they hung out just recently!

“I saw Bruce about a week and a half ago,” Christie said. “And he had every opportunity to tell me not to, he didn’t, and he never has told me not to. Listen, I know him and you’re wrong. I know Bruce, and I’ve spoken to Bruce, and you’re wrong.”

The governor appeared furious at the insinuation that he and Bruce were on the outs, although he did not provide any proof of their friendship, such as letters from camp, friendship bracelets, or selfies. He ended by telling the female journalist, who seemed very calm, to calm down.

“When I leave, just so we can have this lady be a little calmer, let’s play Bon Jovi on the way out,” he said, adding: “If you want to debate, run for governor and I’ll debate you.”

Correction: The original version of the story incorrectly described the woman who confronted Christie. She was a New Jersey resident.

[NJ.com]

TIME Opinion

Why Troubled Politicians Blame Women Even When It’s Not a Sex Scandal

Former Virginia Gov. McDonnell And Wife Appear In Court For Federal Corruption Case
Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen leave the court in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 24, 2014 Mark Wilson—Getty Images

The trial of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell shows that it's convenient to have a female scapegoat

Updated Aug. 20, 10:10 a.m. E.T.

Men have been blaming their screwups on women ever since the Garden of Eden. Because Adam totally didn’t mean to eat that apple! He only did it because that crazy Eve chick tricked him into it. She must have had a crush on the snake.

This week, former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell’s defense team started bringing witnesses to testify about Maureen McDonnell’s craziness and the former governor’s saintliness. The couple is facing federal corruption charges related to luxury gifts and loans they accepted from a political donor. The defense strategy so far has been to pin the blame for the whole mess on the ex-governor’s wife, saying she had a “crush” on big donor Jonnie Williams, but wasn’t a public official herself so lavish presents to her don’t count as corruption.

Williams, who testified for federal prosecutors under a generous immunity deal, denied any romantic intrigue with Mrs. McDonnell, saying his relationship with the family was a business transaction to help sell health supplements through his company, Star Scientific. “I thought the governor could help bring this product to the marketplace, and it was not the right thing to do,” he testified.

But the defense is arguing that the governor didn’t have anything to do with the $165,000 in cash and gifts that Williams gave him over a two-year period, it was just little ol’ Maureen being a silly woman in love. Love makes women dumb, right?

Longtime McDonnell aide Janet Vestal Kelly testified for the defense on Monday, calling the former governor “Mr. Honest,” but said his wife was “divaish” and “pathologically incapable of taking any responsibility.” She explained that it was “well known” that Maureen McDonnell would “hide things,” and that she seemed “kind of flirty” with Williams. Kelly said she didn’t want to “pile on” the former Virginia first lady, but that her staff even worried that Maureen McDonnell might be mentally ill and they once staged a mutiny because she was so difficult to work for. The defense also presented a letter signed by Maureen McDonnell’s staff detailing the “worst kind of bullying.” And on Tuesday, Maureen McDonnell’s sister-in-law, also named Maureen McDonnell, testified that she was “very manipulative, very unpredictable and very deceptive.” Suddenly, it’s the first lady’s personality that’s on trial, not her husband’s role as an elected official.

It’s possible that Maureen McDonnell, the former governor’s wife, is the lovesick crazy woman the defense team is making her out to be (she did text Williams: “I just felt the earth move, and I wasn’t having sex” after an earthquake.) But it’s also possible this is an elaborate ruse to blame the wife in order to get both McDonnells out of some serious prison time. (They face 14 counts of public corruption, obstruction of justice and lying on financial documents.) This could be a clever experiment in political alchemy: by transforming a corruption scandal into a sex scandal, it puts the focus on the woman’s behavior instead of the money trail. And it makes sense: sex scandals are easier for the public to understand, and blaming the woman tends to take some of the heat off the man — just ask Paula Broadwell or Rielle Hunter.

But now “blaming the woman” (or using a woman’s behavior to distract pesky critics and prosecutors) is becoming a catchall strategy for exonerating male politicians from calamities that might not have much to do with sex at all. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he was “blindsided” by the scandal surrounding the George Washington Bridge closures in Fort Lee, N.J., which he says was orchestrated by his aide Bridget Anne Kelly (who was later publicly shamed for a “personal relationship” she had with another staff member). Chinese politician Bo Xilai last year blamed his “crazy” wife for embezzling government money and taking bribes (she was convicted in 2012 of murdering a British business associate). Newt Gingrich staffers blamed the collapse of his 2011 presidential campaign on a takeover by his wife Callista. And former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens blamed the $250,000 worth of home renovations from a wealthy oil contractor that led to federal corruption charges in 2008 on his wife Catherine (an investigation later found that prosecutors withheld evidence that would have helped Stevens, who lost his Senate seat and then died in a 2010 plane crash). None of these were explicitly sex scandals, but they were still spun as the woman’s fault.

Of course, the woman isn’t always blameless — for Stevens, at least, there might have been some truth to his claim that his wife paid the renovation bills and he might not have known about the thousands of dollars worth of gifts. And it’s possible that Maureen McDonnell did accept Williams’ money without her husband’s knowledge (although this picture of the governor driving Williams’ car makes that seem unlikely). Some lawyers say Bob McDonnell’s “crush” defense is so nutty it just might work, others say it could be the truth. But it’s still a mighty convenient tactic, and it’s not just used by men; Hillary Clinton was all too willing to blame Monica Lewinsky for the affair with Bill, even though Lewinsky was a young, inexperienced intern and Bill Clinton was the President of the United States.

The trend could be an unfortunate by-product of women’s rights: as women are seen as increasingly capable of succeeding, they’re also seen as increasingly capable of screwing up. For example, Mary Todd Lincoln was famous for overspending on White House decorations and falsifying spending records, but Lincoln didn’t try to blame any of his political woes on her (then again Honest Abe had bigger fish to fry).

There’s an old saying that says, “Behind every great man, there’s a great woman.” These days, it seems the inverse is also true: in front of every embarrassed man is an embarrassing woman.

TIME politics

Watch John McCain Dance The Robot Like No Politician Has Danced The Robot Before

ABC, we have your next cast members for Dancing with the Stars.

+ READ ARTICLE

If there was ever a case for Dancing With the Stars: Politicians Special, it was Saturday night’s Apollo in the Hamptons benefit, where showstoppers John McCain and Chris Christie could have danced all night. And if you’re watching the above video of McCain doing the robot with an in-awe Jamie Foxx, you’ll wish they had.

While the Senator pulled off stellar Mr. Roboto moves, getting most literally down in front of high rollers ranging from Bon Jovi to Harvey Weinstein to AmEx CEO Ken Chenault.

Christie, meanwhile, went a little more Electric Slide/Chicken Dance fusion.

“Christie really held his own,” Jack Nicholson told the Post. “I told him, as he walked back to his seat, ‘Governor, you can’t let New Jersey down.'”

Apparently Apollo in the Hamptons is the event of the season. Last year, Foxx reportedly got Colin Powell to sing “Blurred Lines.” While that magical moment wasn’t caught on video, at least we have the former Secretary of State’s DWTS audition tape to make up for it:

TIME politics

Chris Christie Shows Off His World-Famous Dance Moves Onstage With Jamie Foxx

The New York Post called it "rambunctious gyrating"

+ READ ARTICLE

At a benefit in the Hamptons this weekend, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie busted out his incredible dance moves (which he recently showed off on The Tonight Show), much to the delight of the crowd.

“I know you’ve got a dance in you, Chris Christie,” said Jamie Foxx, who urged the politician to join him onstage, according to the New York Post. He promptly made his way up to the stage for what the Post aptly described as “rambunctious gyrating.”

Sadly, there’s no audio, so we recommend turning on some Donna Summer to play in the background. Here, hit play on this and then return to the Christie video:

 

TIME 2016 Election

The Starting Gun Has Sounded in Iowa on 2016 Presidential Race

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit on August 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit on August 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall—AP

Seven big name Republicans have visited the state already this month

Don’t let anyone tell you the 2016 presidential campaign has yet to begin. Seven likely Republican candidates have visited Iowa in the last 11 days. “Part of my role as the state party chair is to make sure that there is a welcome mat out there for every single person that wants to come into this state,” said Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufman Sunday, as he introduced Perry at a fundraiser for a state senate candidate in Grand Mound.

The welcome mat already is in danger of getting worn down.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz appeared at influential GOP donor Bruce Rastetter’s annual party in rural Iowa, with Rubio, the only speaker, wowing the audience, according to attendees. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul then arrived, embarking on a 3-day, 724-mile tour across the state to stump for candidates like Iowa Rep. Steve King. And Saturday, Cruz returned, joining four more would-be candidates, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Gov. Perry, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at the Iowa Family Leader Summit, an annual cattle-call for the state’s social conservative grassroots. Perry used the event to embark on a 500-mile, four day tour on behalf of local candidates, meeting with influential state politicos.

On stage, in fundraisers and at the state fair, the candidates are road-testing their messages, “I wondered long and hard which is it, is this the most ideologically extreme or the most incompetent [administration],” Jindal said Saturday, mixing jokes with a speech heavy on his efforts to bring about education reform in his state. “The best answer I could come up with was Secretary Clinton’s statement, ‘What difference does it make?'”

Cruz spoke at the Des Moines Register soapbox at the state fair Saturday, and blasted Obama’s economic record. “We are trapped in the great stagnation,” he said, comparing Obama to former President Jimmy Carter. At the Family Leader summit, he listed off conservative victories since he took office, including efforts to block gun control. Santorum, meanwhile, repeated his call for the GOP to focus less on business owners and more on the workers they employ. Perry is due to face the notoriously heckle-prone audience on Tuesday.

Politicos in the state say Paul, Perry, Jindal, Santorum, and New Jersey Gov. Christie, who was in Iowa boosting Gov. Terry Branstad’s re-election just last month, have done the most to assist local politicians this fall—a key way to build support for the caucuses.

With the likely candidacy of Hillary Clinton, Democratic contenders have had much lower visibility, attending the occasional fundraiser for a candidate or the state party, but eschewing outright campaigning. Yet rumors abound that Clinton or her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will attend retiring-Sen. Tom Harkin’s final annual steak fry before his retirement next year. Their attendance at the Sept. 14 event, which was Obama’s first Iowa event in 2006, may be disrupted by the upcoming arrival of the Clinton’s first grandchild.

Cruz is already scheduled to be back in Iowa next month for the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual fall conference, while Perry, Christie, and Jindal all plan to be back in the state before the midterm election.

But that doesn’t mean they’re the biggest celebrities in town. A write-up of Rubio’s appearance at the Rastetter event in the Des Moines Register also noted the attendance of Chris Soules, the Iowa farmer who appeared on the latest season of ABC’s Bachelorette. The headline: “Rubio gains notice, but ‘Bachelorette’ hunk steals show.”

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 25

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Secretary of State John Kerry proposes plan to halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip; Obama Administration considers refugee status for Honduras; Veteran Affairs reform efforts break up; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie battered by fellow Republican governors

  • “Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a two-stage plan to halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip that would first impose a weeklong truce starting Sunday…” [NYT]
    • “Gaza officials said Israeli strikes killed 27 people on Friday, including the head of media operations for Hamas ally Islamic Jihad and his son. They put the number of Palestinian deaths in 18 days of conflict at 819, most of them civilians.” [Reuters]
  • “U.S. defense and diplomatic officials said Thursday that Russia is firing artillery across its border at Ukrainian military positions, an assertion that Moscow now is directly engaging in hostilities against Ukrainian government forces.” [WSJ]
  • “When President Obama issues executive orders on immigration in coming weeks, pro-reform activists are expecting something dramatic: temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for perhaps several million undocumented immigrants. If the activists are right, the sweeping move would upend a contentious policy fight and carry broad political consequences.” [TIME]
    • “Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus plan to meet with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and White House counsel Neil Eggleston at the White House on Friday morning.” [TIME]
  • “Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the Southwest border, the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico…” [NYT]
  • How VA Reform Fell Apart In Less Than 4 Days [HuffPost]
  • “Boehner told reporters that the House will pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open sometime in September, avoiding a government shutdown that would otherwise occur on the last day of the month. The legislation would likely expire in early December…” [National Journal]
  • Chris Christie Battered By His GOP Rivals on Governors’ Circuit [TIME]
  • The drug that’s forcing America’s most importatant—and uncomfortable—health-care debate [WashPost]

A brief message from Michael Scherer, TIME Washington D.C. bureau chief:

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A this Friday, July 25, at 1 p.m., with TIME’s political correspondent Zeke Miller, who covers the White House and national politics, and congressional reporter Alex Rogers.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. For this to work, we depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

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TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Battered By His GOP Rivals on Governors’ Circuit

Republican Governors
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listen as Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during a press conference at the Republican Governors Association's quarterly meeting on Wednesday May 21, 2014 in New York. Bebeto Matthews—AP

On paper, New Jersey's Chris Christie leads the nation's Republican governors. In practice, he is becoming a favored target of his peers.

Forget, for the moment, about the cornfields and the straw polls, the live-free-or-die gun shops of Manchester and the sticky-sweet BBQ pits of South Carolina. There is a point in the 2016 presidential campaign, when the action that matters most is more likely to happen under gilded ceilings of Manhattan’s toniest restaurants than where voters actually live. Which is why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie found himself supping at Cipriani on May 18, seated between the billionaire who might fund his way to the White House and a rival governor who wants the job himself. It was a test meal, in its way, and Christie fumbled it.

Organizers had told the press to attend to hear Christie give a muscular address on his foreign policy vision. But the real audience was his table-mate, Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who dumped more than $100 million to elect Republicans in 2012 and was promising even more. Just weeks earlier, Christie had flown to Vegas with three other current and former Republican governors to meet with Adelson at his Venetian casino under the banner of the Republican Jewish Coalition. There Christie had botched his message, speaking of Israel’s “occupied territories,” a term that the Zionist Adelson does not favor. Christie later apologized during his few private minutes with the GOP kingmaker. Now he was back for what organizers called a “Major Speech on Israel and the Middle East.” And something went wrong again. He didn’t mention Israel once in his 18-minute address. In the midst of a political rehabilitation tour, his tablemate Texas Gov. Rick Perry saw a clear opportunity. When he rose to speak minutes later, Perry shoehorned three references to Israel within 90 seconds.

As the head of the Republican Governors Association, Christie is the charismatic captain of a club composed of formal partners but tacit rivals. And that rivalry has only gotten stronger in recent months. Despite surface-level niceties and some degree of symbiotic friendship, many want to see him and his presidential ambitions go up in flames. On Thursday, the tensions broke into view as Republican state leaders broke with Christie, who has refused to publicly appear with Rob Astorino, a long-shot candidates hoping to replace Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Glad to be with my buddy @RobAstorino in Aspen,” tweeted Perry, a few days after Christie told reporters he did not believe that the Republican Astorino had a chance of winning. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have all since expressed support for Astorino.

This follows several other thinly veiled slights in recent months. Just last week Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal implicitly criticized Christie’s habit of picking and choosing issues to engage on, saying the GOP must offer ideas not style. “The next big elections can’t be ones about personalities or just about slogans,” he told TIME, after a question about Christie. After Christie became ensnared in a scandal over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, Jindal had told reporters, “No one governor’s more important than the other.” In February, Scott Walker used Christie’s scandal to sidestep questions about an investigation into improper political activities by his former aides. “He addressed it early on, but obviously he’s not out of the woods yet,” Walker told TIME, saying unlike his, Christie’s troubles were “just beginning.” And when Christie was nearly down-for-the-count in the immediate aftermath of the bridge scandal, Perry fanned the flames. “Is a conservative in New Jersey a conservative in the rest of the country?” Perry asked in February on ABC’s This Week.

As the Republican Party looks to its governors for leadership after years of chaos and infighting in Washington, Christie is no longer a cut above the rest, even as he travels the country as the official leader of Republican governors. Christie is routinely on the road meeting donors and reporters, and by the nature of the job working to defend the 20 Republican-held governorships up for re-election this year. Christie allies said the group was close, despite occasional disagreements. “First and foremost, they’re friends, so they want to be able to help each other,” says RGA Executive Director Phil Cox. Like any club, behind the pretense there are tense personal relationships, but the stakes are unusually high. Perry, Walker, and Jindal are just some of the governors competing in 2016’s proto-primary alongside John Kasich of Ohio, and Mike Pence of Indiana.

The Jindal-Christie relationship is the most fraught, stemming from a bitter leadership battle for the high-profile helm of the RGA in 2012. Christie won out, securing enough votes to force Jindal to accept the number two spot. And with Perry, Christie’s conversations frequently could not be described as civil, people familiar with the exchanges said. With Christie’s fortunes soured, his opponents hurriedly planned trips to New York to meet with the donor class he once seemed to have a lock on. Jindal and Perry have been there as much as twice a month since the beginning of the year, while Walker has made at least four trips as he raises money for his own re-election. Meanwhile, top donors are once again clamoring for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to enter the race.

“It’s like your fiancé cheated on you,” said a person close to one of the ambitious governors, explaining why no other governor has yet emerged as a new favorite. “You don’t propose to the next girl you meet. You take your time to have some fun and meet everyone else.” Meanwhile many of the governors Christie is working to re-elect have tried to place some distance between themselves and Christie, with fewer joint events open to reporters. The calls from New York financiers for Christie to run have become less frequent as they take stock of the field. Christie’s core argument to his party and Wall Street has been his electability, and he is still struggling to show he can win despite the setbacks. More importantly to donors, the question is whether he has learned from the experience. “He’s still surrounded by the same guys,” said one top Republican bundler who was previously committed to Christie. “Where’s the growth? I’m not seeing it yet.”

But it is Christie’s economic record that is emerging as a concrete boot to his likely campaign. His state’s finances are in shambles, with Christie forced to rollback a signature effort to begin paying down the state’s skyrocketing unfunded pension liabilities after overestimating state revenues by nearly $1 billion for each of the next two years. Christie’s state lags most of his GOP colleagues on annual rankings of the best state to do business, while its unemployment rate puts New Jersey in the bottom third of states. Where Christie talks up the successes of all GOP governors, Perry and Jindal travel the country referring to the governors as “competitors” for jobs, not-so-subtly highlighting their states’ relative successes.

The bridge scandal has also revealed the insularity of Christie’s team, centered around strategist Mike DuHaime and former law partner and political fixer Bill Palatucci. The former Giuliani for President campaign manager and Republican National Committee member, are the hard-charging pair behind the harder-charging would-be-candidate. Todd Christie, the governor’s brother, rounds out the inner circle that once included Bill Stepien, his former campaign manager who was poised to take on a role with the RGA and was forced to resign in the wake of his involvement in the bridge scandal.

Where Jindal, Perry and Walker all maintain national and grassroots donor lists thanks to political action committees, Christie’s political network is largely confined to New Jersey outside of his appeal to large donors. “He’ll start out at a disadvantage,” said on GOP digital operative familiar with the potential candidates’ operations.

At the Law Vegas gathering of Republican Jewish donors in March, Scott Walker tried to steal some of Chris Christie’s thunder. He sonorously told of lighting a “menorah candle” around Hanukah and that his son Matthew’s name is derived from the Hebrew for ‘Gift from God.’ Walker sidestepped his lack of foreign policy experience by telling of Ronald Reagan’s showdown with air traffic controllers that “sent a message around the world,” and highlighted his ability to win over Latino voters around Milwaukee. Each of these anecdotes were staples of Christie’s now-familiar pitch to donors and party activists.

Thankfully for Christie, he’s still the more dynamic speaker. Following 45 minutes after Walker, Christie told the same stories—but this time, the crowd was brought to their feet for applause.

Correction: The story has been changed to properly describe the people who had characterized the New York event as a “Major Speech on Israel and the Middle East.” They were event organizers.

TIME 2016 Election

2016 Conservatives Take the Common Core Test

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 14, 2014.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 14, 2014. Jacquelyn Martin—AP

The state standards are becoming a defining issue for GOP presidential hopefuls

If you’re searching for signs that a Republican politician is serious about a 2016 presidential run, watch what he or she says about Common Core.

Over the past several months, the state education standards developed by a bipartisan group of governors and educators have become one of the conservative movement’s biggest bugbears. Common Core is now “radioactive,” as Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad put it recently. And the animus toward it within the Republican base has sent the politicians who are vying to be their next leader scrambling to distance themselves from the policy.

On Friday, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin became the latest 2016 contender to ditch the standards, issuing a one-sentence statement calling on the Badger State legislature to repeal Common Core and replace it “with standards set by the people of Wisconsin.” But Walker is hardly the first national figure to revisit his position toward Common Core as the conservative outcry intensifies.

Earlier this week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed an executive order creating a commission to examine the efficacy of the standards. The move was a hedge by Christie, who has supported Common Core, and may buy him cover to move further away from the policy later if the politics continue to sour.

Other likely 2016 hopefuls have been less equivocal. In April, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation dropping Common Core. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose state adopted the standards in 2010, issued executive orders last month to spike the policy—against the wishes of his state’s education superintendent.

These GOP governors are at the back of the pack of 2016 hopefuls when it comes to ditching Common Core. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a law banning the standards in his state. Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio all came out in opposition last year as the backlash built, fed by the (inaccurate) perception that Common Core is a federal takeover of education foisted on the states. By now, the only potential 2016 GOP candidate unambiguously in favor of the standards is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—and his embrace of the policy is a major reason many believe his brand of conservatism is out of step with the national mood.

The irony in this trend is that key features of Common Core—including tougher standards, state-drawn curricula and teacher accountability—reflect conservative values. (So much so that the American Federation of Teachers, the influential union, is now backing away from the policy.) But political winds can blow away policy convictions when they’re inconvenient. Just ask Barack Obama. He spent much of his presidential campaign attacking No Child Left Behind, the national education standards championed by George W. Bush. Once he entered the Oval Office, Obama set about promoting his own set of national standards.

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