Much of the talk surrounding Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the Newark public school system concerned whether it was an image-building move for the Facebook CEO just as a new movie is coming out that will make him look bad.
But what should be getting more attention is the effect it’s having on the image of Chris Christie, NJ’s hardnosed GOP governor.
Prior to last week, you only knew Christie from his videos on YouTube, where he could be seen fighting with public school teachers about their pay. That stuff is pure red meat for budget hawks, but Christie was still open to the charge that he didn’t care about public school children.
This has changed wildly now. Now he’s appearing with Zuckerberg and media-fave Newark Mayor Cory Booker, going on Oprah talking about schools, and promoting the movie “Waiting For Superman” (which is about the desperate need to reform the school system).
Suddenly Chris Christie is at once a budget fighter AND a prominent advocate of school reformer. He’s totally nullifying any vulnerability he might have on education by making it clear that he’s anti public-school unions, and pro education reform.
This is, to put it mildly, a wildly great place for him to position himself, and he’s setting himself up beautifully for a 2012 run.
Christie recently said on CNBC that he’s not interested in a 2012 run, but we don’t buy it.
He’s establishing himself as a leader among the deficit-hawk crowd, while avoiding some of the cultural baggage of the Tea Party set that might turn off the East Coast pro-business set. And this school stuff will go away towards appeasing moderates, who also, incidentally are increasingly worried about spending. The Oprah stuff should also improve his standing among women, who might otherwise be uncomfortable at the sight of a burly type shouting down women school teachers.
Finally, it’s a cliche, but it really does help to be a governor when you’re running for an executive position like the Presidency, and that will be even more powerful in 2012, with the budget such an issue. See anyone can be one politician among many who voted for tax cuts or whatnot. But actually having been at the top, staring down powerful constituencies, and cutting spending is great evidence that you can actually do that on the country’s biggest stage.
Christie is going to run, and should definitely be considered a favourite.
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