In a semi-surprise Friday announcement, Donald Trump’s campaign got a shot of establishment legitimacy from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The timing, execution, and rationale were flawless (as we have come to expect when Trump decides it’s time to take over a news cycle). News of Christie’s endorsement leaked only moments before Christie came to the podium in Fort Worth, Texas to make the announcement.
Realistically, unless you have “campaign myopia” or “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” Christie’s endorsement is both fairly important and actually pretty predictable. Here’s why:
- Chris Christie is a term-limited Governor with mediocre popularity in his home state and a failed Presidential bid to his name. In 2017, Chris Christie will leave office and probably go work in the private sector. That is, unless he can keep working his way up the Federal “cursus honorem.” While some are putting him on the shortlist for the Vice Presidential slot, he also has the pedigree (US Attorney, Governor) to be Attorney General of the United States. In the event Trump wins in the Fall (now, there are people who say he will get blown out and others who say he will open up whole new avenues of support for the GOP. It’s far too early to make those kind of broad predictions), Christie will have a prominent place in the Trump administration.
- He was bound to endorse someone. We all know that Christie’s dislike of Rubio is visceral. We know that he and Cruz would never have any reason to be political buddies. The original thought was that he’d endorse Kasich (both sitting establishment Governors). However, the clear fact is that Christie took one look at the race and, like most everyone is doing now, came to grips with the “most probable” scenario that Donald Trump will be the nominee. If Christie has hopes of a Federal job, his future is tied to getting on board with Trump. So, being a good politician, he did just that.
- Christie and Trump are acquaintances (or maybe friends). Christie and Trump didn’t just meet in this election. Rather, they’ve known one another for at least a few years.
- Christie, for all the haters in the “conservative media” today, has done a lot to grow the Republican Party. Most notably (and close to home), Governor Christie was one of the early and vocal supporters of Maryland’s Larry Hogan (now Governor Hogan). Between 2011 and 2013, Chris Christie traveled across the nation supporting GOP candidates for office. In one of our early profiles on Christie, we gave him some significant momentum because we assumed that there were a lot of prominent people in the Party who would support Christie.
- He should have been the Republican nominee in 2012. When Christie decided not to run for the White House in 2012, many of us were surprised. In retrospect (this was before Bridgegate etc), Christie of 2012 could have had a strong race against Mitt Romney. Frankly, Christie could have won the nomination. While any race against Obama would have been difficult, Christie would not have had the same glaring vulnerabilities as Romney.
- Trump needed the boost against Rubio. While Rubio is not poised to do well on Super Tuesday, the debate last night may have frayed Trump’s nerves. Rolling out Christie, the guy who likely cost Rubio second place in New Hampshire, was a savvy, psychological move for Trump.
Chris Christie has been a Republican team player for years despite, seemingly, getting little in return from the GOP establishment. His decision to endorse Trump is a statement that Christie is looking to his political future and that he can see the way the wind is blowing. Rather than being a one-off endorsement, we would project that, in the likely event that Trump begins to coast to the nomination, you will see other “establishment” Republicans come on board with Trump in the coming days and weeks.
You may not agree with Chris Christie’s decision, but he is, by most projections, just getting ahead of the curve.