As the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and the self-appointed surrogate-in-chief for the Grand Old Party’s candidates for the top jobs in states across the country this fall, Chris Christie has plenty of reasons to want embattled governors like Florida’s Rick Scott and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker to be reelected. Yes, yes, Christie says he wants to stop talking about raising the minimum wage. Yes, he wants to “start offending people” — like school teachers and their unions. But that’s not all; the governor of New Jersey has another goal. Among the reasons he mentions for electing Republican governors, says Christie, is a desire to put the GOP in charge of the “voting mechanism” of likely 2016 presidential battleground states such as Florida and Wisconsin and Ohio. In a speech to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform this week, Christie acknowledged a fact that politicians often avoid: the governor of a state, particularly a governor with allies in the legislature and key statewide posts, can play a big role in deciding how easy or how hard it is for working people, minorities, seniors and students to vote. The governor, who despite his many scandals still seems to imagine himself as a 2016 Republican presidential prospect, described the gubernatorial — and presidential — stakes to the friendly crowd.
“Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist?” Christie announced, in remarks that referenced Democratic challengers to incumbent Republican governors. “Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?”
Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio are politically-competitive states — contested by both parties in presidential years, often producing close finishes that are ultimately resolved by which side is better at getting its supporters to the polls and getting their votes counted. The Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan lost all three states in 2012, as they did most other battlegrounds. Two of these states, Florida and Wisconsin, have dead-heat gubernatorial contests this year. Races are close, as well, in battleground states such as Michigan and Colorado. And polls place a Democratic challenger well ahead of the incumbent Republican governor in the frequently competitive state of Pennsylvania.