The Road to 2016: Chris Christie
Current Governor of New Jersey
Strong re-election margin as Governor in 2013 election
Former United States Attorney for New Jersey
Keys to the Party:
Two-term governor with appeal and growing name recognition
Was re-elected by a larger margin than his first election
Has helped other Republican Governors, notably Larry Hogan in Maryland with their campaigns
Is staunchly in the “establishment” camp and has the ability to raise large amounts of money
Generally affable and relates well to the average individual
Keys to the Press:
Governor Christie has had a tempestuous relationship with the press, regularly making news for calling the media out on poorly-formed or biased questions
Significant concerns about Governor Christie’s health are valid because of his obesity
Partnered closely with the President to secure disaster relief funds following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy in 2012
Accusations still exist that Governor Christie improperly exercised his authority as Governor to punish local officials for not supporting his re-election campaign for Governor
Governor Christie is not a social conservative firebrand, but rather plays well in GOP establishment circles. His best qualities are his jovial and seemingly approachable demeanor with respect to supporters and his ardent defense of his positions against his detractors. Early in his career as Governor, Christie mastered the art of talking in soundbites. Some of the earliest national press Christie received was for his hammering what he perceived as dubious questioning during a town hall event. Moreover, he has repeatedly generated press for his refusal to submit to lines of questioning he perceives as “gotcha”-type journalism.
Governor Christie has shown himself to be able to have play outside of New Jersey and has backed successful candidates for Governor across the country. Christie’s most recent notable success was the election of Larry Hogan as Governor of Maryland. While this inter-state cooperation is good for the Party, it also raises Governor Christie’s notoriety in more states. There is also the added benefit that the Governors who Christie helped get elected will owe him support when the 2016 presidential primaries and eventual general election come around.
Governor Christie has also proven himself to be able to survive perceived scandal. During the run up to, and immediate aftermath of, his dominant re-election as governor, the Christie campaign was accused of a whole host of dirty political tactics and corruption. Likewise, Governor Christie’s reaction to the Ebola scare of 2014 and the apparent acquiescence on parental rights to choose whether or not to vaccinate their children have portrayed the Governor in a negative light. However, the Governor’s national prominence has not withered at all under these attacks, but has rather continued to grow.
Governor Christie, for all of his national media attention and ability to speak truth to hecklers, protesters, and the press, does not appeal well beyond the moderate establishment base of the Party. To social conservatives, Governor Christie’s vacillating pro-life position as well as his general acceptance of gay marriage will likely be an issue for the Governor in the ideologically-driven primaries. Likewise, Governor Christie’s willingness to accept federal aid and work closely with President Obama has been met with heavy scorn by the national conservative media.
While Governor Christie has successfully combated charges of corruption and minor political gaffes, they fact that such accusations and inadvertent comments have been made and continue to linger around talk of his running in 2016 may make his path to the presidency more difficult than other potential establishment contenders.
Odds of Running:
It would be difficult not to imagine Governor Christie running for President. Already nearly two years in to his second term as Governor of New Jersey, Christie’s national prominence is at its apogee. In the event the Governor were to wait until 2020 (assuming a Democrat wins the White House in 2016), he will have been out of his governorship for nearly three years. Unless Governor Christie is planning a run for the Senate, he best time to run for President is 2016.
Governor Christie may be dissuaded from running in the event there is significant back-room negotiations among the establishment wing of the Party that conclude that there should only be one candidate from that wing. Most power brokers in the Party are aware that Governor Christie would likely siphon votes from Jeb Bush and vice versa.
Odds of Winning the Nomination:
Governor Christie’s chief opponent as the race begins is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Bush’s machine and money will be difficult to compete against in early states. However, in the event Bush is unable to carry New Hampshire and move into the South with some backing, establishment donors will likely turn away.
In the event Governor Christie is able to outlast Governor Bush, his next major opponent would be other sitting governors like Bobby Jindal or Scott Walker who have more conservative bona fides and considerably less moderate-establishment baggage. The ability of a candidate like Scott Walker to bridge the social conservative-establishment divide will be a major test for Christie as the primaries move forward.
Odds of a Cabinet Position:
Governor Christie has proven himself able to support other Republican candidates in the past and has shown remarkable loyalty to the Party line. In the event that an establishment-leaning candidate gets the nomination, Governor Christie becomes a very real contender for several positions in a new administration. Though Governor Christie’s popularity has taken a hit in recent months in New Jersey, the fact that, as a Vice Presidential candidate, he may be able to put New Jersey in play for the Republican Party is encouraging.
Governor Christie has been a loyal and outspoken establishment governor. Though his time as governor has seen scandal and some turbulence, he has remained in the vanguard of potential Republican contenders for President.
GovMatt’s Opinion: Accusations against Governor Christie’s alleged complicity in either dirty tricks or corruption in his race for re-election are concerning. Tales of governors like Spiro Agnew haunt the minds of red governors in blue states and dog their future paths. Governor Christie has been an effective spokesman for the establishment wing of the Party, but is unlikely to be able to bridge the necessary divide that will unite the disparate elements of the Party. Likewise, Governor Christie’s health is a major concern.