New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has not announced that he’s running for the GOP nomination for president. But when Christie Tuesday thanked a woman begging him to run instead of outright refusing her, he gave new hope to conservative pundits and voters questioning the credentials of the debate-battered Texas governor and the other GOP candidates.
If Christie does join the race, how would his politics — sometimes labeled left of center by fellow Republicans — compare to those of the front-runners, Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney? Use our analysis, which includes details on Christie compiled by The New York Times’ blogger Nate Silver. You can also see how Perry and Romney compare to other candidates officially in the running, U.S. Reps. Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann, here.
Military Experience |
States' Rights |
Health Care Reform |
Death Penalty | Global Warming | Immigration Reform | Evolution | Same-Sex Marriage
The longest-serving governor in Texas history is a former West Texas cotton farmer who started his political career as a Democrat in the Texas House. After switching to the Republican Party, Perry was elected agriculture commissioner, then lieutenant governor. He succeeded George W. Bush as governor in December 2000, and has since been re-elected three times.
Romney, a management consultant, served as CEO of Bain & Company and then co-founded a spin-off investment firm, Bain Capital, that quickly made him a multimillionaire. In his first run at politics, Romney lost the 1994 Massachusetts U.S. Senate race to incumbent Democrat Ted Kennedy. Romney was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and did not seek re-election in 2006.
Christie began his career as a lawyer, and later partner, at a Cranford, N.J. law firm. In 2002, he was named U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. He won acclaim for cracking down on public corruption by securing more than 130 convictions or guilty pleas from Democratic and Republican public officials. He was elected governor of New Jersey in 2009.
Perry, 61, married his childhood sweetheart, Anita, whom he met at age 8 at a piano recital. They have two children, Griffin and Sydney, and a daughter-in-law, Meredith.
Romney, 64, and his wife, Ann, have five grown sons, all of whom have joined him on the campaign trail.
Christie has been married for more than 25 years to his wife Pat. They have four children aged six to 16.
Perry received a bachelor of arts in animal science from Texas A&M University and graduated with a 2.5 GPA.
Romney attended Brigham Young University in Utah for his undergraduate degree and received dual law and business graduate degrees from Harvard University.
Christie graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in political science before attending the Seton Hall University School of Law.
Perry served five years in the U.S. Air Force.
Romney has no military experience. He served as a Mormon missionary and was given a military deferment during the Vietnam War. He has said he longed to serve and regrets not having done so.
Raised as a Methodist, Perry now attends an evangelical church in Austin. At the 30,000-strong prayer rally he hosted in Houston in August, Perry told the crowd that God was the "only hope" for a nation in crisis.
The Romney family has practiced Mormonism since the former governor's great-great-grandparents joined the church in 1841 after meeting its founder, Joseph Smith. When he was 19, Romney went on a 30-month mission trip to France.
A Roman Catholic, Christie adheres to most of the values ascribed by the Church; he’s anti-abortion. But he has deviated on some social issues, particularly his view of homosexuality. “My religion says it’s a sin. But for me, I have always believed that people are born with the predisposition to be homosexual,” Christie said on CNN earlier this year.
From his lawsuits challenging federal health care reform and environmental programs to his suggestions that Texans were so angry with Washington that they might consider secession, Perry has repeatedly invoked the 10th Amendment. He promises to "stop the federal intrusion upon states by runaway agencies like the EPA" and he wrote his book Fed Up! to "rally Americans to restore the proper, constitutional balance between the federal government and the states."
Romney has invoked the 10th Amendment to defend his health reform plan for Massachusetts, which some Republican opponents have compared to the federal reform they revile: “One thing I’d never do, by the way," Romney says, "is impose a one-size-fits-all policy on the nation.”
Christie hasn’t written a federalist manifesto like Perry, but both were among the 32 governors who signed the letter to Obama opposing the federal mandates required by the Affordable Care Act.
Perry's four-point strategy: lower taxes, ease up regulations on businesses, pass Texas-sized tort reform laws and educate the workforce.
Forget a federal stimulus: Lower corporate taxes and increase foreign trade, reduce regulations on energy extraction to curb dependence on foreign oil, and reform entitlement programs to cut government spending.
Christie’s job creation strategy for New Jersey this year included $180 million in targeted tax cuts for small businesses and reforms to corporate business taxes. He also lowered the cap on property taxes.
Perry's first order of business would be to repeal "Obamacare," then "start over" by freeing states of federal mandates and giving local governments more control over Medicaid and other social programs. Texas has been good fodder for Democrats: It has country's highest rate of uninsured individuals.
Romney believes states should implement their own health care plans, like Massachusetts did when he was governor. Though his state's individual mandate has drawn comparisons to "Obamacare," 98 percent of Massachusetts residents now have health insurance at a cost of $350 million a year, or 1 percent of the state budget.
Christie overhauled the health insurance and pension plans for New Jersey state employees to curb the states’ budget deficit.
An ardent abortion opponent, Perry signed a pledge to use his federal power, if elected, to appoint anti-abortion advocates to top positions and to work to defund Planned Parenthood.
Romney believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned so states can independently decide whether to outlaw abortion. He has angered some conservatives by not signing a pledge to appoint anti-abortion advocates to top federal positions. Romney campaigned in 1994 and 2002 as an abortion rights supporter but has since switched positions.
Ardently anti-abortion, Christie pledged in his 2009 campaign for governor to “reduce abortions in New Jersey through laws such as parental notification, a 24-hour waiting period and a ban on partial-birth abortion.”
During Perry's tenure, 236 convicted criminals have been executed, more than any U.S. governor in modern history. He has commuted the death sentences of 31 inmates, including 28 who the U.S. Supreme Court said could no longer be executed because they were juveniles at the time of their crime.
Romney unsuccessfully attempted to reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts in 2005 and again in 2007.
Christie supports the death penalty, and endorsed a lawmakers’ bill to reinstate the death penalty for convicted criminals who murdered a child, killed a police officer on duty or committed a terrorist act that results in mass murders.
Texas currently has seven lawsuits filed against the EPA challenging regulations that limit emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. In his book Fed Up!, Perry calls global warming “one contrived phony mess."
Romney says he believes the world is getting hotter but doesn't know "if it's mostly caused by humans." He opposes increasing regulations on emissions. "What I'm not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don't know the answer to," he has said.
“When you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts,” Christie has said. He issued a one-year moratorium on new coal plant permits.
Perry made outlawing "sanctuary cities" a priority during the last legislative session. After recent GOP debates, he was criticized for allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities. He has also increased funding for border security in Texas and recently asked the federal government to reimburse Texas for the cost of imprisoning illegal aliens.
Romney has said the U.S. ought to build a border fence, outlaw "sanctuary cities" and keep employers from hiring illegal immigrants. He's in favor of creating an employment-verification system.
Christie caught flack from talkshow host Lou Dobbs among others in 2008 when he said immigration is an administrative matter, not a crime. "Being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime,” he said, adding that a person is not a criminal unless they re-enter the country illegally after being deported.
Perry says evolution is a theory "with some gaps." On the campaign trail, he inaccurately told a child that "in Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools. Because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”
Romney has said he believes God created the universe and that “evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.”
Christie says the decision to teach creationism in schools should be decided at the local level. “Evolution is required teaching,” Christie said. “If there’s a certain school district that also wants to teach creationism, that’s not something we should decide.”
Perry has backtracked on a claim made in his book Fed Up! that states should decide whether to sanction same-sex marriage. He now says he supports a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage. "Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn't changed. I believe marriage is a union between one man and one woman," he said.
Although same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Romney signed a pledge to appoint officials, particularly judges, who oppose same-sex marriage. He has said he would defend the Defense of Marriage Act and has signed a pledge to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
On his 2009 campaign site, Christie said, “While, I have no issue with same sex couples sharing contractual rights, I believe that marriage should remain the exclusive domain of one man and one woman.”