This article in Politico is so obnoxiously obtuse that you wonder if author Alexander Burns has lived in a cave for the last two decades.

“The GOP’s Tarnished Golden Boys” projects a self-satisfied air of smugness at the problems of Christie and former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell that you see a lot from liberal pundits these days:

The first major Republicans elected after the 2008 Obama landslide, the tough-as-nails Garden Stater and the straight-edged Virginian heralded the conservative resurgence in 2010 and pointed the way toward sweeping victories for small-government candidates on the state level. A year ago, both seemed like plausible and even probable 2016 presidential candidates, two representatives of a fresher GOP, anchored in fiscal discipline, support for states’ rights and opposition to public labor.

Now, clouds hang over both the GOP golden boys of 2009. McDonnell’s situation is far graver: as he leaves office this weekend, the governor’s Boy Scout-image is in tatters amid an ongoing criminal investigation of huge, undisclosed gifts that his family accepted from a political contributor.

Christie, meanwhile, saw the start of his second term engulfed this week in a different kind of investigation: a legislative inquiry, and a just-opened federal probe, into several of his aides meddling with traffic patterns in Northern New Jersey as an apparent act of political retaliation.

The near-simultaneous humbling of both men marks an important checkpoint in the history of the post-George W. Bush Republican Party, as a first set of next-generation conservatives begins to run up against the consequences of their own errors. Much as second-term presidents – not least of all Barack Obama – often struggle with the fallout from their first-term decisions, a new round of GOP state executives has only begun to confront messy realities of their own making.

Republicans emphasize that the two governors’ predicaments are not equivalent. McDonnell could face a federal indictment after the end of the single term Virginia governors are allowed. Christie, on the other hand, has totally denied any personal wrongdoing; no evidence has surfaced tying him directly to unlawful acts of retribution.

Yet this week, the two men adopted comparable poses of self-abasement, speaking to their constituents in tones of remorse at dramatic odds with the chest-thumping triumphalism that was a shared hallmark of both men during political appearances over the last four years. On the contrary, the two governors meditated together on the imperfections of humankind.

“Chest-thumping triumphalism”? Whew! Must have missed that these last four years. Imagine that — a winning politician who scores important legislative victories acting triumphantly. Never happened before in the history of the republic.