New Jersey Governor Chris Christie floated a lead balloon this week by canning a moderate state Supreme Court Justice for not being appointed by a Republican. The way it works is that a governor makes a seven-year appointment, that person comes up for a review and barring anything outlandish, that justice is tenured until the mandatory retirement age of 70.
But Christie has decided that he will not be bothered by a tradition upheld by Democrats and Republicans alike since the end of World War II. He nominated a loyal Republican in the sitting justice's place -- even though the man was a mere 22 months away from turning 70, when Christie would get to fill the seat with one of his nominees. The New Jersey state Senate, in the firm grip of Democrats, is not allowing confirmation hearings to go forward and will likely leave the bench vacant unless Christie capitulates.
Though the state Supreme Court has taken progressive strides, this was not an act of ideology from Governor Christie -- it was an act of power. He chose to break with precedent for one simple reason: to show that he can. For this, he has hardened the hearts of some otherwise sympathetic Democrats. A push too far, and he will pay a price for it in other areas of his agenda.
Counting the unhatched chickens of hubris is hurting Republicans in New York, as well. Michael Steele allegedly told state GOP Chairman Ed Cox that the RNC won't be spending any of its money to back ex-Democrat Steve Levy if he emerges as the party's gubernatorial nominee. On the other hand, Levy claims that the Republican Governors Association will spend $8 to $10 million to back him -- an unlikely sum, and a promise on which the RGA will not comment.
The Governors Association, heady off wins in New Jersey and Virginia, is said to have been a driving force in bringing Levy into the Republican fold last March. But they haven't been able to engineer the end of Rick Lazio, who remains a strong contender for the nomination. As the spat drags on and Andrew Cuomo consolidates his power, the only sure loser is the New York Republican Party.
And speaking of this seemingly rainy year for NY Republicans, is the lack of a GOP challenger to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand a harbinger of the national party's 2012 problems? Say a Republican candidate is able to defeat Gillibrand -- he or she would then have to take on another Democratic challenger in 2012 when the full Clinton term is set to expire.
It's somewhat reminiscent of the national buzz around Senator Scott Brown when he won the special election in Massachusetts. Don't discount it. Remember, he has to win re-election in 2012, when Ted Kennedy's original term ends. Brown has a better shot at being elected the next Republican vice president than he does at being elected the Republican senator from Massachusetts in a presidential year.