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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Governor Machiavelli

Politics is really not about elephants fighting donkeys, or even about principles. (Elections are about principles and strategy.) Politics is largely about power.  And politics, not principles, most determine who gets to the playing field -- the election -- and the chance to win.

Certain inaction in 2014 is designed to pave the road for a favorite son to run for President in 2016.  Here's the explanation. The deadline for submitting petitions to run for U.S. Senate or the House in the State of New Jersey is three weeks from Monday. (March 31, 2014 at precisely 4 pm.)  As of yet there is no credible candidate running as a Republican against short-term incumbent Cory Booker, who increasingly appears to have escaped Newark just in time for all sorts of scandals to break. (Like the State threatening to seize its schools, possibly control its budget, an investigation into the Newark watershed, and more...)

Booker's vulnerability was demonstrated by his mere 10-point victory over movement conservative Steve Lonegan last year despite huge fundraising and organizational advantages.  Why is the state Republican Party not mounting a challenge?  Because a serious 2014 race would indicate that Republicans -- that is, other than Chris Christie -- might actually be competitive in the state. A noncompetitive race, on the other hand, means there will be NO Republican organization at all other than the captive state organization which, for better or for worse, is all about promoting Christie 2016.  The lack of an organization means any Christie opponent coming into New Jersey would be starting almost literally from scratch.  And that, my friends, is the plan.

Should the multiple emerging scandals and criminal investigations damage the Governor, the state party and its leadership will be at risk of being severely discredited.  This is the risk when a political party is not diversified and all roads lead to or through one candidate, one power base. Just as investment portfolios concentrated in one sector can enjoy windfalls as well as wipe-out disaster, a political black swan can destroy the New Jersey Republican Party for years to come.

What does this portend for 2016? I ask one question of readers: Can anyone name a prominent candidate who became successful nationally after leaving their own party, in their home state, in worse shape than when they "arrived on the scene"? Me neither.

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