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Opinion: Why is Chris Christie in Iowa? We'll Know the Answer in 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 01:44 PM

New jersey Gov Chris Christie was in Iowa this week to raise funds for Steve King’s reelection bid in a newly drawn fourth Congressional District that’s more challenging than the old one where he has handily won reelection.

So why was Christie raising money for King?

First, because he is an up-and-coming GOP national political figure.

Second, maybe because King helped Christie with a Congressional hearing. The Associated Press puts it this way:

The King event is in part out of gratitude for the congressman's support for Christie at a congressional hearing two years ago, King adviser Chuck Laudner said.

Christie, then the nominee for New Jersey governor, faced pointed questioning at a Judiciary subcommittee hearing in the then-Democrat-controlled House about no-bid contracts he awarded as U.S. attorney in New Jersey. Christie's star has risen quickly after he defeated a Democratic governor in a Democratic state just a year after Democrat Barack Obama was elected president.

The actual testimony is only for deep political insiders so I’ll skip that and you can Google it, but Christie being in Iowa just months before the Iowa Presidential caucuses is no accident.

Well, recall that Christie had been to Iowa raising money for Gov Terry Branstad who handily won election over incumbent Chet Culver.

Recall also that a group of Iowa Republican leaders went to New Jersey and pleaded with the recently elected Christie to throw his hat in the ring for the 2012 caucuses. Christie turned down the offer to run for president, but his interest in Iowa has continued.

In addition to raising some money for Steve King Christie was also a star speaker at an education summit that was hosted by Gov. Terry Branstad. Christie knows about education and education policy. One of his signature issues, one that is making him an interesting GOP national figure, is his pushback against New Jersey teacher’s unions.

It used to be that Democrats were 100 oercent behind teachers unions because Democrats “believe in public education” but mostly because the teachers unions are a powerful base of funding and political support for Democrats.

However, in 2011 Republicans began to seriously push back against teacher tenure, power, and quality of education. In Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, and Minnesota Republican governors fought open warfare with public employee unions. Teachers unions were one of the principal adversaries.

Then came an avalanche of new reports on the dreadful, I’d say shocking, corruption in the union-centered public education systems of California, New York, and most recently Georgia.

These shed new and very troubling light on the control unions have over public education and in many cases the actual criminal behavior within that educational establishment. Among the problems are that “bad teachers” cannot be fired, there is an “old-boy-old-girl” system in which promotions and advancement are not performance based, and there are lots of cases of misuse of funds and abuse of power.

Even Democrats are now alarmed about the state of education in this country, but it's too late because the GOP owns this issue.

So, Chris Christie is now a serious GOP hero because he “tamed” the teachers unions in New Jersey. And it got nasty; at one point Christie told ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer that the union was a group of thugs.

"I believe the teachers in New Jersey in the main are wonderful public servants that care deeply. But their union, their union are a group of political thugs," Christie said. He said the New Jersey Education Association refused to negotiate on a salary freeze last year. "They should have taken the salary freeze. They didn't and now, you know, we had to lay teachers off."

So, is Christie running for president? I have written elsewhere that I believe he is not, in 2012. But he has become a standout in the GOP pantheon of political heroes. I say keep your eye on 2016!

Steffen Schmidt is professor of political science at Iowa State University, writes and blogs for the Des Moines Register and WNYC’s “It’s a Free Country,” and is chief political correspondent for Insideriowa.com.

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