Christie signs 10 gun control bills into law
But he refused to sign 5 others so everything is ok, right?
Two of the bills Christie signed were opposed by gun-rights activists: One bars gun purchases by people on the federal terrorism watch-list; the other makes it mandatory for the state to submit information on people who are banned from gun ownership to a national database.
Christie has not tipped his hand as to whether he will sign or veto the other five bills, which include an outright ban on the sale of the highest caliber rifle currently available to civilians.
Christie's handling of the gun bills was just another day of walking a fine line.
On one hand, he wants to win reelection in his increasingly blue state this November with as resounding a margin as possible and preserve his cross-party appeal on the national stage.
On the other, he is widely believed to be shaping up for a 2016 White House bid. He therefore needs to maintain his viability with the GOP base if he is to get through the primary process. And segments of that base have come to regard him with growing suspicion.
A year ago, the Christie brand looked tailor-made for a GOP in need of a new standard-bearer. He was the brash, sometimes abrasive governor who took the fight to labor unions, Democrats and the media alike.
But some conservatives contend that, of late, Christie has been much too inclined to burnish his moderate credentials.
Signing Thursday's gun bills was one example. But his most high-profile apostasies by far were his appearances with President Obama, both in the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and in late May. Those images are certain to find their way into the TV ads of intraparty rivals if Christie does run for the White House.
"I think among activists there was a lot of excitement about him, but in the last eight months or so, people have kind of soured on him, having cosied up to Obama," said Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa who runs a website called TheIowaRepublican.
"I don't think they would necessarily write him off, but they would look at him more skeptically."
Christie hasn't walked that "fine line" in months. He has been speaking and acting as a northeastern moderate governor. That's what he is. That's what he's always been.
Conservatives may have been enamored of his pugnacious personality but the reality is his policies have trended toward a moderate brand of conservatism. Like Romney, his game plan is to have the conservatives knock each other off in the primaries while he racks up delegates. Eventually, it will be him against the surviving conservative who will be poorly funded and hopelessly behind in the delegate race.
It's possible that conservatives will decide on one candidate early, in which case Christie would be in trouble. But as long as there are two or three conservatives in the race, Christie should be very competitive.
Most conservative activists have already made up their minds about Christie, so his support of some gun control measures won't hurt him with the right any more than he has already been damaged. If he runs, Christie will be banking on the support of the establishment, as well as the same voters who voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney during the last two cycles. It proved a winning combination before and unless conservatives unite behind a single candidate, it should prove to be a smart strategy this time around as well.