Roger Simon: Conservatives at CPAC snub Christie for crazy
IN POLITICS, snubs are more important than invites.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican and social conservative, has been refused a speaking spot at the Conservative Political Action Conference to be held this week just outside Washington.
CPAC, as it is known, is the Ames Straw Poll without the fun.
The Ames Straw Poll held in Iowa has free drinks, free eats, free face painting and free country music followed by a bunch of speeches and a meaningless presidential straw poll.
CPAC has a bunch of speeches and a meaningless presidential straw poll.
Previous CPAC straw poll winners have included President Jack Kemp (three times), President Phil Gramm, President Steve Forbes, President Gary Bauer, President Rudy Giuliani, President George Allen, President Ron Paul (twice) and President Mitt Romney (four times.)
Winning the CPAC straw poll would be a kiss of death except that two winners - Ronald Reagan (three times) and George W. Bush (once) - actually survived it and went on to the Oval Office.
Statistically, it is far better to lose the straw poll than to win it, which may be why Christie says he is not upset by being snubbed. "It's not like I'm lacking for invitations to speak around the country," he said.
Christie is being punished because he appeared in public with President Barack Obama to thank him for Hurricane Sandy relief for New Jersey and also because Christie later berated Republicans in Congress because they held up that relief.
But that is only part of it: Christie is being snubbed because he is a winner in a party that embraces losing as a sign of faith and purity.
Two of the major speakers at CPAC will be - drum roll, please - Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney.
The CPAC 2013 official motto is: "America's Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives."
It is a little hard to see, however, how either Palin or Romney represents America's future or the next generation of conservatives.
Palin can't hold onto a job even at Fox News. And while I know a number of people who would like Romney to run again in 2016, they all happen to be Democrats.
Romney went on TV recently to disprove rumors that he has been spending the past few months in a hotel suite in Vegas shuffling around with Kleenex boxes on his feet.
Romney spoke to Chris Wallace on Fox News about something Romney has just discovered: There was a "passion gap" in the last election between Republicans and Democrats.
Anybody who watched the Republican and the Democratic conventions last year saw a big difference in enthusiasm. As I also wrote last year, at campaign speech after campaign speech, people would shout out, "We love you!" to Barack Obama, but I never heard anybody shout that out to Mitt Romney.
This caught Romney totally by surprise on Election Day. "You know, we certainly had the passion coming from our side, and I don't think we were as aware of the passion that was coming from the other side," Romney said. "I think we were a little blindsided by that."
So what can CPAC and the Republican Party learn from this? It might learn that passion counts. It might also learn, as I have written repeatedly, that the more likable candidate almost always wins the presidency.
So who has CPAC lined up to speak besides Palin and Romney? Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush.
That is a pretty broad field ranging from wacky to serious, so why is Chris Christie barred from it? Because he is a Republican governor in a Democratic state and has an approval rating of 74 percent, that's why.
As a Republican actually attracting Democrats and independents, he is suspect in the eyes of conservatives.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that CPAC was showing a "suicidal death wish" by snubbing Christie and that it "writes off CPAC as a serious force."
"If you can't accept Chris Christie as a conservative, then you're really just asking for another election loss in 2016," King said. "And it makes us look crazy in the eyes of the American people."
But King misreads his party. To many hard-core Republicans, the party has wasted nomination after nomination on wishy-washy mock conservatives who are not true believers and who are not willing to drink the Kool-Aid.
Crazy? Crazy is what a lot of Republicans yearn for.
Roger Simon is Politico's chief political columnist.