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Opinion: Keynote Pick Means the GOP is Shunning Christie

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Mitt Romney addresses a campaign rally with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Joe Lieberman, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie have a lot in common.

They are all from left-leaning East Coast states that tend to vote Democratic in Presidential races. They all are more conservative than the politicians their states tend to vote for. They all take some moderate stances that can, at times, put them at odds with their own party orthodoxy. They all boast about their ability to reach across the aisle and find unlikely allies. They all have been, at one time or another, media darlings that capture the imagination of a certain type of political pundit who praise them with words like "independence" and "political courage." None of them were elected appealing by solely - or even primarily - appealing to a right-wing Republican base.

In short, they have in common that none of them are typical of today's Republican Party. Now they have something else in common: they've all been tapped as keynote speakers for the Republican Convention.

The news of Christie taking the top non-candidate spot at the RNC in Tampa isn't that surprising. He was courted to leap into the race as a late Presidential contender, and then speculation intensified at his chance's for joining Romney's ticket. He appeals to the Wall Street class of Republicans who have seen him go to war for lower taxes. He has made friends for his willingness to throw elbows at unions. He's become a rising star for his blunt manner. And he's popular because he wins.

He won against a Democratic incumbent only a year after the Obama landslide. He's won again and again in his tug-of-war with New Jersey's state legislature. And he's done it all in a Democratic state.

All of these qualities may have made him a better VP pick than Paul Ryan, whose Draconian budget, unrelentingly paternalistic stance on female health and public statements on cutting Medicare are going to chase away centrist and independent voters that Romney needs and Christie might have appealed to. For all of Christie's conservative credentials, he can talk moderate in a way that's harder for a red-meat Tea Partier like Ryan.

But in the Republican Party, the Keynote is your dance partner for the evening, and your VP is the one you go home with at night -- and those aren't the same people. The Keynote is when you parade out for the country the more moderate face of the GOP -- someone with cross-over appeal and a touch of the unorthodox who hints to the nation that there's a new forward-looking Republican Party on the horizon.

The VP choice is when you wink back to the base: don't worry, we're still going hard right, and we know who our friends are.

It's why Lieberman couldn't make the cut to become McCain's running mate - his views on choice are a non-starter in the GOP. Though Maverick John would have shaken up the race with Joe at his side, he ended up losing it completely with Sarah. It's why Rudy never stands a chance in the national GOP primaries he keeps flirting with; the national GOP is willing to share a dance, but he's not their idea of a life partner.

Christie will be spoken of as the next generation of the GOP -- a Governor whose unapologetic executive style has helped him win over a blue state. And who knows? The current GOP candidate had similar credentials. Maybe Christie could go as far as Romney; but then he'd learn he needs a Palin or a Ryan at his side to get the Republican base to truly believe in him. Until then, he's more of a show horse, performing on the national stage; and Paul Ryan is the conservative the party will take home when the show is over.