I must admit, when former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie removed himself from the 2016 Republican presidential primary race very early in the contest, I thought we’d seen the last of his oversized run as a major influencer in the Grand Old Party.
Like with other Republican comers and goers in recent memory, Christie had, at one point at least, been considered the future of the post-Bush GOP, a semi-common man who wasn’t the least bit afraid to stand on a stage, look liberals in the eye, and tell it like it is. To make the newcomer’s phenomenon even more enticing, Christie appeared to enjoy the resistance. Unlike most Republicans who were more than content to take a verbal beating from the much more aggressive Democrats, Christie punched back, and for a few political moments, appeared to be a great possible candidate for president. It seemed like a “when” not “if” proposition.
Every politics watcher now recollects how Christie declined to run in 2012 (when he was at his highest ebb), leaving the GOP field to the wiles of flip-flopper Mitt Romney. Conservatives couldn’t agree on a main challenger to the wishy-washy pol from Massachusetts (among other places) that year, leaving Romney to squeak by with a half-hearted endorsement from the conservative grassroots.
Most folks figured Christie’s star had risen and flamed out. When the portly pol threw his hat in the ring for 2016, some predicted he would regain a smidgen of his forlorn popularity. He didn’t. And when eventual winner Donald Trump fired him from the president elect’s transition team, most in-the-know reasoned it was because Chris had been exposed as a stooge for the establishment.
Well, Christie is back again. For whatever rationale, the New Jersey brawler has decided to give campaigning another shot in 2024. Ryan King reported at the Washington Examiner last week:
“An announcement [will take place tonight at 6:30 at St. Anselm College], Axios reported, highlighting [Christie’s] strategic emphasis on New Hampshire.
“Christie, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2016, has earned a reputation as a fierce critic of former President Donald Trump. He befriended Trump in the early 2000s and was an early endorser of the former president in 2016. In the time since, Christie has soured on him publicly, reportedly vowing never to back him again.
“Should he enter the race, Christie has foreshadowed plans to become something of a Trump attack dog. ‘It’s like he’s Voldemort,’ Christie joked about Republican reluctance to go after Trump. ‘You’re not going to beat someone by closing your eyes, clicking your heels together three times, and saying there’s no place like home.’ Recently, allies of Christie formed Tell It Like It Is, a super PAC aimed at giving him a boost ahead of a presidential run.”
It should be noted that Christie doesn’t call his abrasive style “straight talk” – that moniker was coined by the late John McCain intending to make people believe he always told the ugly truth – Or that he spoke truth to power or stood up to bullies or knew stuff that others don’t know… or something like that.
It seems to me Chris Christie understands he can’t possibly win, but he still could potentially be problematic for frontrunner Donald Trump in two ways. First, as the former Garden State governor has spilled on numerous occasions, he will almost certainly direct his entire message pitch to voters of the former president, serving as this cycle’s John Kasich-type holier-than-thou whiner and complainer, but also someone who plans on making Trump the issue in the party campaign (not that the man isn’t already).
With Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s recent entrance into the ’24 GOP presidential race, the media narrative has shifted – somewhat – to a much closer examination of Trump’s record in office as well as his turbulent (to be kind) post 2020 election dealings, where the lifelong real estate developer and tabloid celebrity has successfully painted himself as the political class’s biggest victim. Whereas senile president Joe Biden often sells himself as the world’s biggest hero, Trump takes the opposite tack… well, at least half the time.
Trump’s bravado is still there, of course, but much of his strategy these days doesn’t involve a wholesale frontal assault on senile Joe and his evil band of Democrat henchmen. Instead, it’s plea after plea of being treated unfairly by the media and the equally evil Biden (or state) justice department. As I’ve argued, Trump’s fixation on the injustices done to him is entirely justified – and backed up with a ton of evidence – but it’s not what people “out there” want to hear about for the millionth time.
Therefore, it’s unlikely Chris Christie’s “Trump is a horrible person” diatribes would bear fruit this year, but all he needs is a big enough following to get himself included in the upcoming primary debates and he’ll have his multi-moment opportunity for Trump-savage drama. Christie’s fame was generated so long ago that hardly anyone – except for maybe his multitude of enemies – remembers why he was famous to begin with, but he’s probably still revered by the eternally disgruntled and, to some extent, by a big slice of the #NeverTrump crowd simply because he’s so virulently anti-Trump.
The other way Christie might be more than a nuisance to Trump is the fact Chris will also be taking deep digs at Ron DeSantis. How would this be problematic for Trump? Because Trump has spent months advancing the false notion that DeSantis is in bed with the DC political establishment, so therefore, if Chris Christie, perhaps the leading edge of the establishment itself, assaults DeSantis, then the idea of Gov. Ron being chums with the elites flies out the window.
If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, then if DeSantis is Chris Christie’s enemy (along with Trump), he ain’t a pushover for the Mitt Romney/Bush family/Paul Ryan neoconservative hangers-on contingent. Trump made a tactical error in depicting DeSantis as this cycle’s establishment candidate, and even the former president will have a tough time making such a case when Christie is standing alongside (or more likely, at one of the extremes) him onstage assailing DeSantis as too conservative and obsessed with the culture war. Conservatives don’t just hope to make headway on turning the nation’s fiscal house around, they earnestly desire to fight back against the “woke” leftists who work tirelessly for Americans to accept that biological men could be women or biological women could be men. No drag queen reading a story to little kids at a library would ever pass the DNA test no matter how much eyeshadow he wears as he mimics the words.
Chris Christie’s “moderate” social issue positions won’t endear him to anyone but the Republican Party’s old guard, but his constant berating of Trump and DeSantis may cause otherwise solid voters to reappraise what they really think this race is all about. And the more reconsidering that people do, the more Trump could potentially suffer an erosion of support. How much? Yet to be seen. But it probably is causing some consternation in Trump-land.
There’s also a possibility that having Chris Christie out serving as the Democrats’ de facto attack dog could motivate some Republican voters to consider candidates other than Trump and DeSantis, but as time goes on and polls continue pointing to the top two as the main contenders, it will be harder and harder for others to make their case.
Recall that 2016 eventually narrowed to a three-contender race – Trump, Ted Cruz (who won Iowa) and Marco Rubio (who didn’t win a primary other than Puerto Rico but came in second several times), but this three-way scenario isn’t as likely to develop in 2024, which starts off as an either/or prospect with the former president and DeSantis. 2016 was wide open with no one person occupying any “lane” at the outset, and time had to work things out, which it eventually did.
I could envision a candidate like Sen. Tim Scott and/or Vivek Ramaswamy picking up some voters who’d given up on Trump and DeSantis – and Christie – but would there be enough to vault them into the top-tier? Doubtful. There will be movement at some point in this campaign, but chances are the elevation will be temporary and balance will be restored once the people narrow down the choices to who can really win.
See Carson, Ben, in the narrative of the 2016 GOP primary race.
Chris Christie’s main challenge will be to gain a foothold on the establishment lane where he’ll have competition from Nikki Haley and possibly Tim Scott – or even Mike Pence, should Trump’s former vice president join the field. It goes without saying that whomever is viewed as the GOP establishment favorite will fall off the board with most conservative voters. Who wants another Mitt Romney or George W. Bush?
As for now, Christie will receive lots of invitations from establishment media talk show producers hankering for some Republican – any Republican – bent on trashing Trump and DeSantis, which the rotund national GOP figure will happily oblige. Chris will now camp out in New Hampshire knowing he doesn’t have a prayer in Iowa, and his candidacy, like in 2016, will likely end in early February of next year unless the boisterous blowhard somehow catches a miracle in the Granite State.
Chris Christie will make the Republican presidential debates more entertaining, but beyond the show quality, what purpose does his candidacy serve? How far will he go? Christie’s ceiling is awful low and his lane isn’t that wide, which is disqualifying news for him.
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