Doherty still with Paul – but also with Christie

Sources close to Gov. Chris Christie say the governor likes the Fair Schools Funding Plan that state Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23) continues to pitch around the state. 

For months it looked like Doherty was using the tour to trampoline his name ID into a statewide GOP Primary for U.S. Senate.

But more and more, Doherty’s claims that he’s trying to make a mark on the schools issue and intends to stay focused on it as a primary goal rather than generate a 2012 U.S. Senate candidacy appear to be accurate on their face.

Part of it has to do with Christie’s acceptance of the schools plan and his willingness to wrap an arm around Doherty and prevent him from turning into the party’s most voluble wild man.

Sources say the two Republicans’ alpha grizzly bear clashing over the budget is all but forgotten now and the potential U.S. Senate candidacy of Christie friend and kitchen cabinet confidant state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) makes even cozier Doherty/front office relations more likely.

It’s not quid pro exactly said one source to the question of whether Christie’s deal with Doherty is “stay away from Joe and I’ll back fair funding,” as much as a friendly party dialogue, said a source.

Another source close to the state senator say Doherty remains very committed to the presdiential candidacy of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and is encouraged by polls that show Paul tied for second place in Iowa with Mitt Romney.

But to the point of Doherty taking little delight in being the anti-Christie voice in the party, Doherty has told friends and political allies that Romney would be a better nominee than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

He confirmed that to this week.

“Romney would be a good nominee int he event that Ron Paul doesn’t win,” said Doherty, who underscored that he still wants Paul.

Doherty is troubled by the ethics complaints that trailed Gingrich out of office and what he cites as a history of Gingrich flip flops and questionable conservative branding.

The state senator was bothered, for example, to see Gingrich cut a global warming ad with conservative anathema Nancy Pelosi. Doherty still with Paul – but also with Christie