Once poised to be the standard bearer for a flailing GOP, Gov. Chris Christie now struggles to recapture the heart of a party that’s abandoned him.
From the main stage to the kiddy’s table, Gov. Chris Christie is seeing his political capital drop at a startling rate. The abrasive governor was supposed to be standard bearer for the Republican establishment.
The Republican Party was no longer in its wonder years. Following the disastrous reign of President George W. Bush, and the subsequent growth of the petulantly nativist Tea Party, the Republican Party was quickly losing favor with the general public. Relying on gerrymandered districts and unjust electoral reforms for political ascension, the Republican Party pigeonholed itself into the unshakable local realm and lost its ability to seriously compete on the national presidential stage.
In 2012, Chris Christie was supposed to change these precarious and unsustainable dynamics. He was supposed to reignite the Party by being a formidable opponent to President Obama. A hardline conservative in a solidly blue state, Christie had the résumé to unite a coalition of moderates, conservatives, and rigid right-wingers who were either disillusioned or disgusted with the nation’s first Black president.
He also was a governor – a position that was comforting to establishmentarians. Party technicians love running governors for presidential office. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Mitt Romney are a few notable names. Voters respect and trust governors, and being governor of a state just a few miles from the premier economic engine of the world, positioned Christie auspiciously in the eyes of insiders and outsiders alike.
A graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law, he was appointed to U.S. Attorney of NJ in 2002. Despite a bottom rate law degree, his prestigious career in the legal field was yet another rallying point in a fractured party. He appealed to anti-intellectual conservatives, and was still a convincing example of bootstrap philosophy that Republican Ivy Leaguers love to tote.
In 2012, the Republican establishment pushed Christie to run. Donors with long pockets were essentially waving blank checks in his face. He was the best option in an underwhelming, unqualified clown circus. Similar to today, the Republican field was cluttered and unsophisticated. They lacked the esoteric political skill to campaign and fundraise in a tech-savvy electorate. Their fundamentalist rhetoric did little to energize those who identified as people of color, young people, and LGBTQ.
President Obama, already experienced in winning a presidential campaign, had the infrastructure and electorate — even if voters had grown chilly towards him. A vanguard on the forefront of leveraging social media as a robust small donor base, President Obama was #unbothered by his political rivals.
His biggest concern was thwarting frontrunner Mitt Romney, the former governor of Mass. Like Christie, he governed a blue state, but unlike Christie, he was a moderate, a Mormon, and the architect of what would eventually become Obamacare.
The Establishment wasn’t thrilled with the frontrunner. He was stiff and uncharismatic. He was too polished, having grown up wealthy. His rumored $100 million net worth made him non-relatable to a base ravaged by dwindling financial means. He wasn’t scrappy in the way that Christie was. Known for publicly berating journalists and commoners, Christie’s no-nonsenseness was exactly what the Party needed.
Furthermore, Christie could stand up to the stubborn Tea Party. Where other Republican politicos folded to the harmful demands of the ultra-red wing, Christie could put them in their place.
Despite the coveted backing and the ideal circumstances, Chris Christie decided not to run. He wanted to flex his muscles in his own state, and personally felt that he was not ready to withstand the suffocating scrutiny of a presidential race. He leveraged his popularity elsewhere — he gave the keynote speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention. His rousing, well-received speech raised his national profile to considerable heights.
Now a national fixture on the 24/7 political news junket, people were taking a closer look at the governor. His leaderships skills and political ability were questioned as NJ’s economy failed to rebound after the recession. In 2014, the state ranked 46th for economic growth. High rates of poverty and unemployment continue. And The Atlantic City saga is a haunting reminder of his inability, nepotism, and corruption.
With careful political tinkering, NJ’s failing economy was relatively simple to explain in an upcoming presidential election. Christie could’ve easily blamed his Democrat predecessors, and would’ve been well within his right to do so.
The photo ops with President Obama in the wake of Superstorm Sandy were also an easy fix. “Bipartisanship,” “putting country first,” and similar talking points were politically convenient for the governor.
But Bridgegate was a death knell. In 2013, Christie’s political affiliates colluded to close toll lanes for the George Washington Bridge, a central conduit to NYC. Traffic jams and gridlock caused massive delays, and prevented emergency personnel from responding. It’s rumored that lane closures were political revenge against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who did not endorse Christie in the 2013 gubernatorial election. I like Rachel Maddow’s theory better.
The tides changed against him. Quickly. His abrasive tussles with journalists were no longer courageous, they were unprofessional and unbecoming of a president. He was petty and corrupt. The Establishment scurried like cockroaches. NJ voters hated him even more than before.
His presidential future is dim. No longer a wunderkind, he’s desperately trying to recapture the heart of the political party no longer enamored by him. With 1% support, he’s been bumped from the main GOP debate tomorrow, and resigned to the pre-debate where low-polling contenders scrapple before an audience of few.
Chris Christie is no longer a force to be reckoned with, but rather a frail shadow of what-could-have-been. Ego and obstinance are what’s guiding his limp campaign as he remains blind to the obvious reality that Christie 2016! deserves nothing less than euthanasia.
*Featured Image Credit: www.huffingtonpost.com