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It’s ‘eyes right’ for the GOP hopefuls

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So, while the Hillary watch proceeds among Democrats looking toward 2016 with expectations of another winning standard bearer, on the Republican side the courtship dance by presidential aspirants to win over primary voters is in progress as well, with all the pandering to the right-wing element that now is set in stone as definitive shapers of the GOP brand. Clearly intent on assuring that flaming red base that he’s very much in the presidential hunt, even with his barrage of problems across the river, is New Jersey’s Chris Christie. Chances are the field won’t be as easy to dominate as it once looked for him.

Time was when the governor had to expend precious little effort to justify his place among the party’s presidential wannabes. Some slick marketing of the Christie road show had positioned him as the GOP’s golden-boy 2016 prospect and Hillary foil. As we’ve said here before, even absent the albatross that so-called “Bridgegate” and related issues have become, Christie’s frequently documented penchant for boorish, insulting behavior toward average Joes was always going to be a bigger obstacle to a smooth White House run than Chriatie and his minions imagined. That has only been compounded by the Washington Bridge mess and other questionable conduct for which the Christie administration is reportedly on the hot seat.

Christie is at this point content to go all macho and respond with a “tempest in a teapot” shrug to what others consider very real headaches. So, like fellow contenders in the GOP pack, he is evidently committed to doing as effective a job of far-right appeasement as the political calculus requires. There Christie was a few days ago, waxing all foreign-policy savvy at the Republican governors group he now chairs, laying blame for the current Israeli-Palestinian hostilities on President Obama, of course. That this most recent call to arms was spawned by tit-for-tat acts of violence by the continually sparring gladiators wasn’t relevant, apparently, as Christie launched the stock Obama-vilifying attack lines that seem the extent of his party’s contribution to divided government.

Earlier, back in New Jersey, the governor had made headlines with his veto of a gun-control measure passed by the legislature to limit the magazine size in firearms. Offering some patented mumbo-jumbo as excuse for not signing the bill, Christie was evidently little moved by parents affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy being among those urging him to support the legislation. There certainly was no mystery about such action having solely to do with placating the screamers on the right. On which side of the gun debate Christie has deliberately chosen to stand had previously been pretty well established when he reversed course about a ban on .50 caliber rifles, a measure he had himself earlier called for.

Christie and his cheering section have obviously concluded that whatever, if anything, from the bridge scandal and other stuff sticks to him, it would be nothing their juggernaut can’t handle. We’re constantly reminded, though, that others in the GOP camp aren’t ready to toe that line. One prospective rival wasn’t shy about saying there was enough in the bridge controversy to derail Christie’s ambitions, if not because of his direct involvement in wrongdoing, surely for being inexcusably asleep at the wheel.

In his concerted effort to make nice with the voter demographic where extremist views predominate, Christie’s antics are reminiscent of the guy who last headed the GOP’s presidential ticket. And wouldn’t you know that, perhaps because they see Christie’s posturing as a forced bravado, there apparently are some believers who think Mitt Romney should again be a candidate. Romney insists he’s through running for president, but that’s nothing to take to the bank. As fiercely as Romney seemed to convey, more so in 2012, that he belonged in the Oval Office, practically by right, who would want to rule out a third run by candidate Romney? If he is persuaded to hit that trail again, Romney would be joining a sizeable list of men who have added to our continuing bedevilment about the power lust syndrome.

Even before bartender Scott Prouty recorded Romney’s celebrated “47 percent” speech during the 2012 campaign, the candidate had already done quite a bit to convince voters that core convictions, if he had any, were just about impossible to identify. Romney’s shameless attempts to curry favor with the conservative lot and strenuous insistence that he was of their ilk were among the more pathetic images of that campaign. The tableau even included, for good measure, Romney distancing himself from the healthcare initiative he introduced as Massachusetts governor, that was said to be, in part, a model for the Affordable Care Act. In the end, though, what would be most perplexing about another Romney bid, if it happens, would be the calculation that his infamous writing off of 47 percent of the electorate would be no big deal to expunge from public memory.

They’re off and running. And in GOP country the script is, again, not too much of a challenge to telegraph. Right-side influence will be much in evidence as the process grinds on to settling on a 2016 nominee. Bet on Christie and Romney, if they’re in the mix, in full overdrive to look and sound more “right” than anyone naturally wedded to that turf.

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