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Jim Florio Says Political Gridlock Is Worse Now Than When He Was Governor

8-27-12

As one New Jersey governor gets ready for his prime-time speaking engagement at the Republic National Convention (RNC), another New Jersey governor offered his views about the state of the two major parties and what it means for the Garden State and the nation. NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider sat down with former Democratic Gov. Jim Florio to get his take on Chris Christie and the political gridlock in Washington.

Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to deliver the keynote address on Tuesday night in Tampa where the Republican National Convention is set to open. Calling it a great opportunity for Christie, Florio says the challenge for Christie will be to deliver a message that speaks to the different factions of the Republican party.

“He’s been very good in terms of staying in line with the statewide Republican party which is much more moderate on abortion, guns, gays, issues of that sort,” said Florio. “But if you want to appeal to the national Republican party, he’s got to be a little more shrill which is going to be a difficult thing for him to do I suspect.”

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Florio spoke about the impact of the Tea Party on moderate Republicans. “There are a number of Republican members of Congress who I know personally who are very thoughtful people, moderate people but they have now contorted themselves in trying to appeal to the Tea Party type people.and it’s uncomfortable for them I’m sure.

Florio says he would have been surprised if Christie had been selected to be Mitt Romney’s running mate, given the force of Christie’s personality.

“I just think that Gov. Christie would not be a very good person on the ticket as a number two person,” he said. “He’s very spontaneous and spontaneity is not the highest qualification for running for Vice President.”

Former Gov. Tom Kean spoke at a welcome reception at the RNC today. In his remarks, Kean took a shot at the state’s Democrats, calling them a “petty party with nothing to say.”

According to Florio, the Democrats have plenty to say but so do Republicans. This year’s election, he says, offers voters a clear choice between two competing values.

“Gov. Christie has shown a lot of leadership,” said Florio. “The question is where does he want to lead us to. And I think that’s the difference between the Democrats and Republicans. The Democrats have a set of values that’s significantly different than those of Republicans.”

The inability of Congress to get much done has cast them in low esteem by the general public. A recent poll showed approval at an all-time low. When it comes time to reach across the aisle, Florio says that Democrats are at a disadvantage because Republicans have less of an incentive to compromise.

“The Republican party, in general terms, is not enthusiastic about government to start with. So therefore, they don’t feel the need to cooperate with people of the opposition because if government fails, that reinforces their message.”

Gov. Florio endured a great deal of public backlash when he raised taxes during his time in office, and paid a political price. But he says the political climate is even worse now than it was in the past.

“I mean New Jersey’s problems and the nation’s problems are such that if there’s no ability to reconcile different opinions of where we should go, we’ll just keep marking time and have this gridlock situation.”