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Jonathan Bernstein

Christie's Measles Madness Explained

It may be shocking when a governor of New Jersey waffles on vaccinations. But for a contender in Iowa, nutty ideas make sense.
Chris Christie finds himself off balance.

Chris Christie finds himself off balance.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Today’s tempest on the trail of possible Republican presidential nominees has been New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s seemingly weak defense of vaccinating American children. By calling for “balance” in government policy, and saying that “parents need to have some measure of choice,” Christie was blasted by both liberals and conservatives. By late morning he seemed to be backing off his comments.

But Christie's apparent attempt to appeal to vaccination opponents, while a surprising strategy for a governor in a densely populated state, is consistent with a plausible Iowa caucus strategy: an attempt to lock up a small faction of voters.