If the House of Representatives was controlled by a hard-left wing of the Democratic party, and the White House was inhabited by a Republican named President Chris Christie, would the government shut down?
OK, Christie is still only running for reelection in New Jersey. But in a recent interview he left open the possibility of quitting early and running for president: "We'll see, I don't know. That's a decision I have to make further down the road." So it's reasonable to wonder what would happen if President Christie was hanging in the Oval office.
According to the would-be president himself, this is what he would do:
“My approach would be, as the executive, is to call in the leaders of the Congress, the legislature, whatever you’re dealing with and say that we’re not leaving this room until we fix this problem," Christie said Monday in the hours before the government shutdown. "Because I’m the boss, I’m in charge.”
Christie spread the blame on this current crisis to House Republicans, Senate Democrats and President Obama.
But New Jersey Democrats are blaming Christie -- Gov. Christie -- for the shut down. They noted that Christie's senate appointee, Jeff Chiesa, opposed spending bills that funded Obamacare, which they say contributed to the crisis. And they point out that Christie has campaigned for tea party candidates, including New Jersey senate candidate Steve Lonegan, who have led the opposition to the president.
"So isn't Chris Christie ias much of the problem as any of his conservative GOP brethren?" asked Matt Farauto, a spokesman for the New Jersey Democrats. "And why is his hypocrisy and brash, empty rhetoric garnering such attention, basically for pointing fingers at everyone but himself? As much as the next guy, Christie deserves to be held accountable for the halting of federal services to New Jersey's most vulnerable citizens."
Christie, though, is drawing a sharp contrast between divided government in Washington that has failed, and divided government in Trenton under the governor that has worked. He is seeking to remind voters in his race against State Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex) that he has dealt with the Democrats who control the Legislature on issues like tenure reform for teachers, economic-development incentives for corporations, and reductions in benefits for public workers.
Through a new #DearDC hashtag on his Twitter feed, a campaign ad launching this week, and a series of recent public appearances with prominent Democrats, the Republican governor is playing to the bipartisan inclinations of Democratic New Jersey. He's also in effect laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential run, when he could portray himself as a bipartisan savior after years of partisan gridlock.
The bipartisanship theme isn't something new - Christie has repeatedly said compromise is a basic tenet of his administration even as he has used terms like numb nuts to describe his political opponents.
In a July 2012 speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington, which was tweeted by Christie on Monday with the #DearDC tag, the governor repeated his refrain about a "boulevard of compromise." He said he had met Democrats on that boulevard, while Washington politicians had failed to do so.
"The job of an executive is to make sure you get the job done, that you force people into a room and you find a way to get to compromise - not on every issue, some will be impossible to find compromise, but my experience is more often than not, you can find it," he said.
He even praised the state's Democratic leaders by name for working with him, and said New Jersey was setting an example for the country.
That message also emerges in Christie's latest campaign commercial, set to air this week as part of an existing $1.5 million ad buy in the New York and Philadelphia markets. Christie looks into the camera, ticks off a list of accomplishments, then says:
"Everything we've done has been a bipartisan accomplishment. It's my job to make sure that compromise happens. You see, as long as you stick to your principles, compromise isn't a dirty word."
Finding common ground in Trenton is likely easier than in the nation's capital. It has proved far more difficult for Obama to corral Washington's 535 legislators for compromise than it has for Christie to win over Trenton's 120.
Christie's success has come in part through his private negotiations with the leaders of two big blocs of Democratic votes in the Legislature - one in North Jersey, the other in South Jersey. When joined by Republicans, who almost always side with Christie, these Democratic blocs have often given the governor the votes he needs.
But there hasn't always been bipartisanship: Christie was the first New Jersey governor to see a nominee to the Supreme Court rejected by the state Senate. Then it happened a second time. He has also fought with Democrats over social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, both of which he opposes, and pocketbook issues such as tax cuts for the wealthy, which he supports.
A spokesman for the Buono campaign, David Turner, also noted that Christie defied Democrats and vetoed an increase in the minimum wage.
"With the stroke of his pen, the governor could ensure [marriage] equality and raise the minimum wage for New Jerseyans. Rejecting the overwhelming majority of his constituents, he vetoed both because they did not match the values of national Republicans he is trying to court," Turner said. "That's not bipartisan. That's putting his own ambitions above the people he's supposed to represent."
But Christie's public appearances serve as a rebuttal of the Buono message, as he has spent the home stretch of the campaign appearing with the state's most prominent Democrats.
Essex County Executive Joseph "Joe D." DiVincenzo, considered the most powerful Democrat in North Jersey, has endorsed Christie and repeatedly tagged along with him on the campaign trail.
Two weeks ago, Christie glad-handed the top two elected Democrats, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, at a bill-signing ceremony for a new economic development incentive program. And last week he was photographed laughing with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the Democratic Senate candidate, at a groundbreaking ceremony in Booker's city.
On Wednesday, Christie will again appear with Sweeney at Rowan University for the groundbreaking of a new engineering building paid for through a $750 million capital program. The program was approved by voters after being jointly pushed by Christie and the Democrats.
Last month, Christie repeatedly hugged Democratic Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd during a visit to a city school. And next Monday he is scheduled to be back in Camden for the opening of a new cancer center at Cooper University Hospital, where he'll share the stage with George E. Norcross III, the chairman of the hospital, part-owner of The Inquirer - and the state's preeminent Democratic power broker.