Pity the politician or heckler who picks a fight with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Time and time again, Christie has abandoned the normal politician's caution and publicly lambasted opponents who angered him, unafraid to call people he deemed out of line "idiots" or worse. Of course, this anti-politician persona is a large part of Christie's appeal among voters who are sick to death of candidates who spin and parse their words so finely that they become meaningless pabulum. And to be clear, Christie has also shown a willingness to buck the traditional orthodoxy of his Republican party on a number of issues, including his recent declaration that the drug war has been a "failure" and that more needs to be done to treat those with addictions.
But here's a prediction about Christie's primetime keynote address tonight at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. While there's no doubt the governor will rev up the crowd with trenchant attacks on President Obama's record - and tout his own successes as a Republican leader in a typically Democrat dominated state - he will not peep a word about one of the things that makes him such a unique member of the GOP: his strong support for solar energy. Indeed, while there is a report that Christie rebuffed former Governor Mitt Romney's offer of the vice presidential spot on the ticket, my guess is that any chance of him actually being the VP candidate ended this past July when he signed a bill that helped stabilize the New Jersey solar market.
In doing so, Christie not only helped preserve thousands of jobs in the nation's second-largest market for solar installations, he also said the sorts of things that rarely pass the lips of any Republican not named Schwarzenegger. "Having renewable energy in our state, having it be a larger part of our portfolio, creating jobs, is not a Republican or Democratic issue," he said when he signed the so-called solar resurrection bill. "It's an issue that the people of our state demand we work on together."
It's unfortunate that Republican conventioneers won't hear that message from Christie - although it's very likely that he would be greeted with a cascade of boos for expressing anything but disdain for renewable energy. In fact, if Christie says anything at all about energy, it's probable that he will simply parrot the talking points of Romney, who released his policy blueprint on the topic last week. To be blunt, the vision Romney laid out for the future of energy in America differs very little from the "drill, baby, drill" approach championed by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. While not innovative or forward thinking, at least it's instructive as a straightforward encapsulation of Romney's overall governing philosophy. Whether it's tax policy or energy, Romney believes that the proper role of policy is to solidify the advantages of the already powerful, be they wealthy individuals or wildly prosperous fossil fuel companies.
Unfortunately, we live in an era when political conventions are panned as failures when any alternative viewpoints are expressed. So the GOP and the country as a whole won't hear Christie's differing position. Then again, the governor is enough of a wild card that he just might go off script. The GOP, and the nation as a whole, would benefit tremendously if the true "rogue" Republican did just that.