From Christie to Wall Street, All Eyes on New York

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Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page and New York Magazine national affairs editor John Heilemann discussed the New York area's impact on national politics, from Chris Christie to the Wall Street protests.

The Right tries to elevate Chris Christie, while the Left tries to take Wall Street down a peg. Whether you're focused on economic woes or the election (or both), chances are you have eyes on the New York metropolitan area.

Wall Street as what's wrong

First, the protests. There's no doubt about their increasing influence of Occupy Wall Street over the past two weeks, as similar anti-corporate demonstrations have sprung up in other urban areas like Chicago and Los Angeles. There are, however, doubts in the mainstream as to what the protesters demand from the banks, financial institutions, and businesses they're railing against.

There was some discussion among John Heileman and Susan Page about whether language like "occupy" put the movement in danger of seeming too radical or militant for milder Americans to get behind. But both agreed that the concerns of the protesters, articulated in various forms on the street and the internet, were mostly valid and popular. Heileman said that gaining further support was contingent upon an even clearer expression of principles, and a greater focus on one problem in particular.

Wall Street is very much the locus of what is still wrong with the American economy. If this group becomes a little more nuanced, they will start to make arguments about the nexus between Wall Street money and politics, and that's where there's a real base of concern in the country. Whether the group is capable of capitalizing on it and speaking to it effectively, I don't know.

What Republicans like about Christie—and what they might hate

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Hudson River, speculation abounds about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie changing his mind and joining the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Rumors ratcheted up last week when Christie was to give a speech at the Reagan Library in California. Christie made some surprising comments, but they weren't about a run for the White House; Christie touted his record of accomplishments through with a divided government (his state legislature is Democratic). Brian Lehrer asked John Heileman: Is "compromise" a word Republicans want to hear?

When he says compromise, what he means is, 'I beat the hell out of the Democratic legislature and they gave in to most of my demands.' That sounds a lot more appealing to people in the Republican party than the kind of compromise that someone like Jon Huntsman is putting forward.

"Compromise" isn't a four-letter word for Christie because the base likes his brand of negotiation. What the base might not appreciate, according to Susan Page, are his positions on issues like gun control or climate change—positions that play well in his region and home state, but might not withstand the party's scrutiny on the national stage.

We've seen the kind of trouble Rick Perry has gotten into for the very acceptable position he takes in Texas on immigration: It is almost disqualifying for him in these primaries, and I think Christie could face a very similar process.