Via Eliana Johnson, who reports that these two spots will be rolling out in New Hampshire tomorrow to try to stop Christie before he passes Rubio there as the establishment favorite. He’s within three points of Rubio in each of the last three polls conducted in the state and actually led Rubio in one taken in early December. I’ve been working on the assumption that all of that will change once Rubio inevitably starts rolling out big endorsements, but maybe Team Marco is less confident than I am. It does seem like Christie has the momentum in the state, even though Rubio is reliably, if narrowly, ahead. Why is that? Is it a simple matter of media coverage? I.e. we spent the better part of last year reading story after story about how Rubio was a serious threat to win the nomination while Christie was a scandal-addled also-ran, but within the past month or so, that’s flipped. Most of the coverage about Christie has been positive, about how he’s making inroads in New Hampshire after having been left for dead, while most of the buzz about Rubio has to do with whether he’s doing enough stumping in the early states to compete seriously. The “momentum” may be just one or two more news cycles away from changing back to Rubio again.
For what it’s worth, though, while Christie is too far towards the center for me to support him over, say, Ted Cruz, he does strike me as far more engaging on the stump when I watch his clips from NH than Rubio does. Rubio is a disciplined politician but sometimes to a fault; often I have the sense that he’s talking at the audience, not to them. (Sarah Palin recently called him “robotic,” which isn’t exactly true but isn’t exactly false either.) That’s not a problem, I assume, for the many New Hampshirites who haven’t been paying attention and are only now hearing him for the first time, but if you’ve heard his shtick before and you’re not a true-blue Rubio diehard, it seems increasingly underwhelming. Christie, on the other hand, always seems like he’s talking to you, not at you. He’s got his script too — the now-famous speech on drug addiction that went viral on YouTube was a bit he’s done at other events — but he achieves a degree of personal engagement that Rubio (or Cruz) can’t quite get to. They’re speechmakers; Christie and Trump are talkers. Maybe the latter works better on me because I was raised in New York and their manner seems familiar and relatable in a way that it doesn’t for others, but some New Hampshirites are obviously responding too. We’ll know in a month how much it mattered.
Two ads from Team Marco here, one aimed at conservatives and the other at independents who might like Christie’s centrist, mavericky style. Christie’s got a ready answer to the second ad: He’s stuck with a Democratic legislature, just like Rubio’s stuck with a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. That’s why neither of them can get much done. The first ad will be harder for him to answer, though, and the kicker made me laugh. I think this is actually a defensive ad as much as it is an attack ad insofar as Rubio himself is frequently labeled the most Obama-esque candidate in the race. Christie’s rap on Rubio is that he’s a young first-term senator who hasn’t governed anything, just as O was; Team Rubio’s rebuttal is that Christie’s a lot more like Obama where it counts, on policy, than Marco is. It’s a great spot. Should work like a charm on the conservatives in New Hampshire who currently prefer Christie to Rubio or Ted Cruz. Are there any conservatives in New Hampshire who prefer him to Rubio or Cruz?
Exit question: Why waste money attacking Christie instead of the frontrunner Trump? Is Team Rubio playing for a second-place finish in New Hampshire?
Update: Christie hits back:
“I just wonder what happened to the Marco who so indignantly looked at Jeb Bush and said ‘I guess someone must have convinced you that going negative against me helps you,'” Christie said on Bloomberg TV’s “With All Due Respect.” “I guess that same person must now have convinced Marco that going negative against Chris Christie is what he needs to do.”…
“If Senator Rubio would just show up for work once in a while, he’s only got one job, he’s got to cast votes in the United States Senate,” Christie said. “If he thinks that’s a worthless job, which he has basically said before, he should resign it. If he doesn’t, then he should show up and vote.”
The next month is going to be funfunfun.