(Atlantic City, New Jersey) – The “Brunch” is on a road trip this weekend in New Jersey. For so long the Garden State has looked like it would be a real player in the 2016 Presidential campaign – with Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) as a candidate – but all of a sudden, the whole campaign dynamic has changed. Let’s brunch on that this week.
“Trumping Christie” – Chris Christie made a name for himself by being combative. He’d gladly take on the press, or some ill-informed voter at a town hall meeting. He could be brusque and downright mean. But people loved his feistiness. People love to see reporters whacked like a piñata now and then, and Christie obliged. But suddenly Donald Trump has stolen Christie’s press-bashing franchise, and has co-opted the whole shtick.
“The Hug Heard ‘Round the World!” – In October 2012, with just weeks to go before the election, New Jersey and other East Coast states were slammed by Hurricane Sandy. Christie – who rode on Marine One – surveyed the damage with President Obama. The brash Governor was even photographed hugging the President who was widely unpopular on the right of the political spectrum. Yes, Christie’s thanks were sincere, but was the hug a mistake for which people never forgave? Christie was reelected a year later, but nationally the damage may have been done.
“Bridgegate” – In September 2013 – just two months before his reelection vote – some lanes approaching the George Washington Bridge into New York were closed for what one aide claimed was a traffic study. The traffic gridlock nightmare which ensued was dubbed, “Bridgegate.” Three of Christie’s former aides were charged; with two awaiting trial, and another pleading guilty. The whole mess was supposedly in retaliation to the Mayor of Fort Lee, who did not endorse Christie for reelection. While the Governor claimed he had no part in the scandal, and did not order the lane closures, the indictments of three close former aides hurt him. Yes, he won reelection at home, but nationally his image was tarnished.
“Poll Plummet” – The mantra I always tell my students is, “Politics is as much about math, as it is about ideology.” The bottom line being that you can have the greatest political idea in the world (the ideology), but if you don’t have enough votes to support you (the math), then you aren’t going to win. Trump has stolen Christie’s “anger ideology” and the poll results, i.e. ‘the math,” doesn’t add up. The latest Quinnipiac University Poll in Pennsylvania – Christie’s neighboring state – has Trump the preferred Republican candidate with 24 percent of the vote, to just 2 percent for Christie.
“But, Can Anyone in the GOP Win NJ?” – In the past six Presidential elections, New Jersey went for the Democratic nominee each time. In the six elections prior to that – from1968 to 1988 – New Jersey went Republican. But to many, that’s ancient history. In 2016, Hillary Clinton of New York – if she is the Democratic nominee – may have a strong pull in New Jersey. Governor Christie who has won twice statewide, may have been the GOP’s only hope to win the Garden State. Yes, Donald Trump is a New Yorker, like Clinton, but some of his failed local business dealings may hurt him in his own backyard.
“Cheering the Wrong Team?” – I always say the worst political wounds are usually self-inflicted. Last year Christie was in a skybox with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, openly cheering for the Cowboys. The Cowboys are the arch rivals of division-mates Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, two of the three NFL teams with a huge New Jersey audience. Locals were angry that Christie backed the Cowboys – and weeks later he was in Green Bay cheering on the Cowboys against “America’s Team” – the Packers. Yes, I know sports and politics should not mix, but they do, and Christie angered many in Wisconsin – a state he probably could have won.
“Is He Toast?” – Look it’s early. Remember in 2012 the frontrunner changed many times in the GOP field. It went from Michele Bachman, to Newt Gingrich, to Herman Cain, to Rick Santorum, to Ron Paul, and ultimately to Mitt Romney. In 2016 – despite Trump’s early and commanding lead – the same thing could happen. It’s still a long way to Iowa and New Hampshire.
“Christie’s Future?” – Assuming he won’t be the nominee, Christie should certainly be under consideration for Attorney General. He built a reputation as a tough prosecutor while serving as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey from 2002 through 2008. He also has a shot at the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Christie is termed-out as Governor, and Menendez – who is under a federal corruption indictment – is up for reelection in 2018, and Christie would be a formidable opponent. Bottom line: Chris Christie is only 52 and will be viable for many Presidential and Senate election cycles to come. He’s a fighter, so don’t count him out!
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