Political pundits: get ready for battle

New Jersey Democrats had been back on their heels ever since Republican Gov. Christie won November's election. Not anymore.

As my Inquirer colleague Adrienne Lu reported, Democrats fought back hard after Christie's budget speech yesterday. They said his cuts to school aid will force property tax increases, accused him of "governing by edict" (in the words of Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono) and said he had broken his pledge of bipartisanship.

Christie and his administration dispute all of those characterizations.

The debate over who is right will surely continue, but one thing was clear yesterday: the honeymoon between the Republican governor and Democratic Legislature is clearly over.

Veteran columnists Tom Moran (of The Star-Ledger) and Charlie Stile (of the Bergen Record) frame out the fight today.

Moran writes that Democrats were infuriated, and that by going it alone with an executive order to unilaterally cut spending, Christie may invite wrath from the public. "Because spending cuts, while appealing in the abstract, are painful on the ground." On the other hand, Moran posits that Christie's tactics may work to paint Democrats as "whiners" in the face of reform.

Stile picks up that theme as well, saying Democrats were positively "howling" with anger and could be painted as obstructionists. "Democrats will need to find a way to navigate the Christie hurricane if they are going to serve as an effective and viable opposition," he writes.

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