There’s a lot of buzz around a Chris Christie run this week, thanks mostly to an all-out effort by big money Republicans to recruit him for a run.
So who are these guys? In July, Christie attended a meeting with a “who’s who A-list of successful fundraisers,” as FOX News put it to discuss a possible presidential bid. The group reportedly included several billionaires, including its host, Home Depot co-founder and venture capitalist Kenneth Langone, who appears to be the most enthusiastic driver of the Christie boomlet.
Langone, 76, has emerged over the last two years as one of the loudest critics of President Obama’s Wall St. vs. Main Street rhetoric. At a CNBC Town Hall last year, Obama himself was asked about Langone’s statement that the White House should stop making “people in business feel like we’re villains or criminal.” The President replied that he was “absolute not” vilifying the private sector, noting that he’s cut taxes on businesses repeatedly. Langone isn’t a total hardliner, however: he endorsed raising taxes on the rich during debt ceiling negotiations so long as the revenue was dedicated entirely to helping pay down the deficit.
New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer is also named by Politico as one of the leaders of the latest Draft Christie movement. Singer was a major fundraiser for both George W. Bush’s and Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaigns. He also bankrolled an unsuccessful 2007 effort in California to try to pass a ballot measure ending the winner-takes-all system for California’s electoral votes, which would provide a massive boost to Republican presidential candidates. Like Langone, he has a moderate streak as well: he helped fund efforts to pass New York’s landmark law allowing same sex marriage this year.
Another key Christie backer: FOX News CEO Roger Ailes. According to New York Magazine, Ailes begged him to run before the presidential race got under way and brokered a meeting between Christie and Rush Limbaugh.
Georgette Mosbacher, a cosmetics CEO who co-chaired John McCain’s 2000 and 20008 campaigns, recently told Capital NY that she and about a dozen major fundraisers in the tri-state area are all waiting to see if Christie runs before committing to another candidate.
Charles and David Koch are fans of Christie, who secretly attended a gathering they hosted in June to deliver a speech on how Republicans need to take on the teachers union “once and for all.” According to Mother Jones, which posted audio of his remarks, David Koch introduced Christie as “my kind of guy” and a “true political hero.”
For Republican elites skeptical of Mitt Romney or worried his Obamacare baggage is too much to overcome, Christie holds a natural appeal. He’s proudly anti-union and, in private with top donors at least, bluntly demands cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to fix the deficit.
His blue state status has also allowed him to keep more of his focus on budget fights than perhaps some other governors. According to Politico’s Mike Allen, a number of ultra-rich attendees at Langone’s July gathering said they voted Democrat in 2008 because they were scared by Sarah Palin’s presence on the GOP ticket. Christie is pro-life and anti-gay marriage, but unlike Palin (and Rick Perry) he’s sought to downplay social issues when possible. He has little patience for the Tea Party’s wackier culture war fights, notably dismissing panic over sharia law as “crap.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.