Christie's secrets

Rumors continue to swirl around New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman's withdrawal from the Senate race, including hints of a future role with George W. Bush.

Topics: Republican Party, New Jersey,

It started with the haircut.

When New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman began making public appearances with a new, Janet Reno-esque coif three weeks ago, people started to wonder, “What’s wrong with her? Is she ill”?

Nobody in her administration would dare say anything on the record, lest they offend the most powerful woman in the state, but many acknowledged that the cut was a bit severe. “It’s functional. Her hair is not a priority,” said one campaign advisor, judiciously.

A congressional staffer tried to be more positive: “I like it! It’s like George Clooney.”

Last we checked, however, George Clooney was a man.

No sooner had Whitman unveiled her new look than she dropped her real bombshell: She was pulling out of the Senate race to replace senior Democrat
Frank Lautenberg, who is retiring at the end of his current term.

Whitman was widely regarded as the strong favorite to replace Lautenberg, and the Democrats had been scrambling to find a viable candidate to run against her. But all of a sudden, she was quitting.

Robert Arena of Presage Internet Campaigns, a consultant to the Whitman campaign, told Salon News, “She couldn’t give 110 percent. She couldn’t be the kind of candidate she wanted to be and the kind of governor she wanted to be at the same time. For her, being governor is the best job.”

Still, the news came as a shock to most people — even to some on her staff. When
reports of her dropping out began to leak before she made the official announcement, her office was flooded with phone calls from around the state and from Washington. While her campaigners stressed on the phone that “the governor is indeed busy running a campaign,” the people on the other end of the line began responding, “Actually, she isn’t.”

When the press wanted to delve even further, Whitman’s staff began elaborating on the problems of campaigning, especially the dreaded “F-word”: fund-raising. Even though Whitman had already amassed more than $2 million (which the campaign will most likely return to contributors), her fund-raising schedule had her traveling to dozens of out-of-state events, some as far away as Arizona.



At a time when most people find it difficult to take politicians at their
word, speculation about Whitman’s true motives was inevitable. According to Sherry Sylvester, the chief political writer for the Trentonian newspaper, the rumors run the gamut: “from illness to political scandals to scandals involving her financier husband, John Whitman, to marital difficulties stemming from an alleged fight in which John allegedly stated that she must run and she responded, ‘I don’t have to do anything!’”

While there is no direct evidence of ill health, the rumors that Whitman might be sick are associated both with the bad haircut and a recent trip she took to Nova Scotia on which no photo ops were allowed. One campaign source suggested to Salon News, however, that “she could just as easily have been meeting with George W. Bush, discussing a possible Bush-Whitman ticket” while she was out of sight.

There also has been talk in political circles about her getting a cabinet post in a Bush White House, but according to sources close to Whitman, the more likely scenario involves her seeking the vice presidency — despite her pro-choice position and other political stands that have not played well with the GOP’s conservative base.

According to one campaign official, since it now appears likely that Pat Buchanan will run as a pro-life third party candidate, draining away conservative votes from the GOP, the main challenge to Bush will be to capture the swing vote, the Reagan Democrats. If so, the ideal candidate for this effort would be someone like Whitman or New York Gov. George Pataki.

Whatever her motives for quitting the Senate race, Whitman appeared upbeat after her announcement, and began appearing on all the political talk shows — indicating that she does not exactly consider this an exit from the political arena.

Whitman’s national aspirations may hit a few roadblocks, however. For one thing, there is a disparity between Whitman’s immense national popularity and her somewhat tempered reputation in her own state. New Jersey residents are more concerned about the state’s soaring property taxes — and her move to fund state pensions by floating a $2.9 billion bond — than with any fantasies she may have about becoming the first female vice president.

And the general consensus among journalists following her candidacy is that, when all is said and done, Christine Todd Whitman is just plain tired.

While her upscale upbringing was far from a struggle, and she hails from a political family, Whitman’s electoral experiences have been anything but comfortable. Her first statewide election was a 1990 attempt to unseat then-Sen. Bill Bradley, and she lost.

At the time, Democratic Gov. James Florio was facing a huge backlash from voters after having embarked on a $2.8 billion state tax hike — the largest in American history. Florio’s tax package proved disastrous to the state’s economy, ruining the boating industry, among others. New Jerseyans were fuming, and took the opportunity to take out their ire on Bradley, whom Whitman charged had not done enough to stop his fellow Democrat Florio from raising the taxes.

Nevertheless, Bradley beat Whitman, 50-47 percent.

Whitman next focused her sights on the governor’s office, and launched a bitter campaign against Florio two years later.

But Whitman was not a natural campaigner, and despite Florio’s high negative ratings, she barely squeaked into office, by 49-48 percent.

In 1996, her re-election run was yet another reminder of her weaknesses on the campaign trail. Running as an incumbent, Whitman faced a serious challenge from
little-known Jim McGreevey, a mayor from Woodbridge. The governor barely survived, winning 47-46 percent.

With an electoral record like this (it’s what some of her campaign workers cynically term “the Whitman landslide”), Whitman had to harbor some concerns about running for the Senate.

And there was still the fund-raising question: Did she really want to go from place to place raising an estimated $17 million, in increments no greater than $1,000? Probably not.

Whatever her motives, Whitman has made one group happy by exiting the race. From underdog to mighty dog, the Democrats now think they can keep the Lautenberg seat in the party, with either Florio or former Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine emerging as their likely candidate. Meanwhile it is the Republicans who now have to scramble to field a viable contender.

All of which may signal the end of Whitman’s political career in her home state once her current term expires — unless, of course, it turns out that all that speculation about a Bush connection is true, after all.

Victorino Matus is associate editor at the Weekly Standard.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>