One of Gov. Chris Christie’s closest friends and advisors says he’s optimistic for the governor’s future in New Jersey and as a model for the national Republican Party. Bill Palatucci told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that Christie has helped turn around the negative image of New Jersey and has shown Republicans that one of their own can lead a Democratic-leaning state.
Palatucci said in years past, New Jerseyans were embarrassed to tell people where they were from, but now the reaction is different. “Now travel anywhere in the country and sometimes parts of the world and you say you’re from New Jersey, people say, ‘I love your governor.’ Or ‘Tell me about your governor.’ So yeah it’s fun to be associated with New Jersey and Gov. Christie at this time,” he said.
According to Palatucci, Christie has already changed the national Republican Party. “You look at Chris Christie, this is a pro-life, tax cutting governor in a blue state who’s doing very well,” he said. This is a guy for the Republican Party that can show a path forward.”
Christie has garnered bipartisan praise for his work after Hurricane Sandy caused heavy damage throughout New Jersey, but on other issues like the budget and revenues, Democrats have pointed out some of the struggles. Palatucci said people should put aside Democratic rhetoric and look at Christie’s actual performance.
“Over 100,000 new jobs since Chris Christie’s been in office, no tax increases, the economy that’s getting better, most categories of revenues are ticking up — not as fast as everybody would like,” Palatucci said. “So if you put that on a national level, the accomplishments that he’s had, particularly with Sen. [Steve] Sweeney and Speaker [Sheila] Oliver, whether it’s property tax cap, pension and benefits reforms, education reforms, that’s what national Republicans want to look at, not what some of the local critics may be talking about.”
While Palatucci admits that there won’t be an income tax cut since Hurricane Sandy hit the state, he is optimistic for New Jersey’s financial future. “Some of the early indications I think for the long term are really good. Those job numbers climbing 30,000 I think in the last month alone,” he said. “As we start to rebuild, I think we’re going to catch a different type of wave, not the wave that Sandy brought us, and I think we’ll continue to improve.”
Christie has invested money and time into Atlantic City and some critics say it’s in serious trouble. But Palatucci is confident the city can turn around. “The governor’s made it very clear — he’s all in in Atlantic City. He has put the weight of his office behind Atlantic City. Give the industry and the town another four years to kind of show they can turn it around,” Palatucci said. “Obviously the timing of the storm in that projection was not good but I think they’ll have a good summer. Their boardwalk is in good shape, Atlantic City’s in good shape. So I think the long term future of Atlantic City is good.”
While Palatucci believes in Christie, he said running as a Republican in New Jersey can be difficult. “You gotta remember it’s a blue state, you’ve got a Democratic president and national economy that’s not doing well. But you’ve got a very effective communicator as governor,” he said. “People, they connect with that. They don’t agree with him with everything, but this is a guy they finally see they have a leader and it’s somebody they have confidence in.”
When asked if he wants Christie to run for president in 2016, Palatucci said, “Let’s focus on ’13. The sky’s the limit for Chris Christie but he’s gotta get reelected.”