New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R.) was not extended an invitation to address this year's Conservative Political Action Conference because his position on gun control leaves him with a "limited future" in the Republican Party, a "CPAC insider" told The National Review Tuesday. But Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, said instead it was Christie's advocacy on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill, and more broadly what he saw as his less-than-conservative record, that led him not to be invited to the annual meeting.
“We felt that the governor’s tone and attitude regarding this relief bill, which was really a pork bill, did not justify an invitation to the conservative conference and we took a pass this year,” Cardenas said, according to The Washington Times.
Cardenas told the National Journal that based on Christie's conservative record over the past year, he didn't make "the all-star game."
“CPAC is like the all-star game for professional athletes; you get invited when you have had an outstanding year,” Cardenas said in an email to the National Journal. “Hopefully he will have another all-star year in the future, at which time we will be happy to extend an invitation. This is a conservative conference, not a Republican Party event.”
The National Review reported Tuesday that the decision may also reflect how Christie is viewed within the party.
Christie has a “limited future” in the national Republican party given his position on gun control, the source tells National Review Online. As a result, the CPAC insider says, the focus of this year’s conference, “the future of conservatism,” made Christie a bad fit.
Christie, the source adds, is simply not a conservative in the eyes of organizers.
The origins of the comment were questionable, coming from one source who would only speak anonymously, inspiring speculation about whether the commenter is a high-level official at the American Conservative Union or a junior staffer.
But, to the extent that this kind of thinking begins to pervade the conservative base of the GOP, it has to worry the New Jersey governor if he holds any ambitions for 2016.
A host of other potential Republican 2016 candidates are slated to speak at the event, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The lineup even includes former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, for whom Christie delivered the keynote address at last year's Republican National Convention.
New Jersey has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, including an assault weapons ban, and Christie has said he supports present laws. Following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he told Fox News there needs to be a "large, national discussion" that includes gun control, but he also essentially expressed disagreement with President Barack Obama's approach.
Christie enjoys a high approval rating in the state of New Jersey but has often found himself at odds with national Republicans in recent months. He notably showered Obama with praise in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the week before the 2012 presidential election, and recently slammed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his caucus over the hurricane relief bill that followed -- actions cited by Cardenas as the reasoning behind leaving Christie out of CPAC this year.
On Tuesday, Christie also became the eighth GOP governor to back the Medicaid expansion under Obama's Affordable Care Act.
This story has been updated to reflect later comment from Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC.