If one needs a metric for the biggest boost coming from the Iowa caucuses, look no further. Chris Christie told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he won’t get out of the race even if Marco Rubio beats him in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. Donald Trump’s preparing to lap Christie twice over at least, Ted Cruz has been ahead of Christie for weeks, but suddenly Christie feels it necessary to defend himself against the man riding the biggest wave out of Des Moines:
Gov. Chris Christie says Marco Rubio doesn’t have the experience to be president, and that he won’t drop out of the race even if the Florida senator beats him.
“He just doesn’t have any experience. All he has is experience of being a legislator,” Christie said on “Good Morning America” today. “We’ve tried that as a party and as a country and it doesn’t work.”
Christie’s argument centers around Rubio’s age – 44 – and that he is not a strong enough candidate to take on Hillary Clinton in the general election if she wins the Democratic nomination.
“We need to make sure we nominate someone who not only can beat Hillary Clinton but also can manage the government and get it back on the right track once they’re elected president of the United States,” Christie, 53, argued. “No need to take those chances on someone who’s never managed anything larger than a 30-person senate staff.”
As metrics go, the Rubio Line might not be a bad one to apply — but not for the reason Christie thinks. If a two-term governor can’t defeat a one-term Senator whom Christie says has so little to offer in this race, then why should that not be a signal that the governor has even less chance of beating Hillary Clinton than Rubio? That might be a question not just for Christie, but also Jeb Bush and John Kasich as well, all of whom are running on their executive experience — and all of whom have occupied the second tier for months on that argument.
This is what has Christie, Bush, and Kasich worried:
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 4, 2016
Trump’s still soaring, and Rubio’s still really caught in a virtual tie with Cruz for second place. However, the three men running on their executive experience are fading into single digits in the one state they thought their resumé would prove effective. Oops!
Under normal circumstances, Christie’s argument would have an impact. Normally, voters want executive experience in presidential nominees. But the electorate has transformed into an anti-establishment populist force, an evolution over the past decade, one that got the present President into office. Voters don’t trust institutions any longer; they want agents of change to transform them, or better yet, tear them down and build them over again. Two-term governors such as Christie are seen as part of that establishment. Voters want to believe in someone more than they want a transactional experience in voting. This attack by the gubernatorial triumvirate on Rubio couldn’t be more tone-deaf if they tried — and it almost appears as if they are trying to sound out of touch.
Besides, Christie’s argument doesn’t even apply best to Christie. He took office in New Jersey as a moderately pro-choice, pro-gun-control governor with a tough attitude towards public-employee unions, only embracing “full-throated conservatism” in the context of running for the GOP nomination. For conservatives looking to get the federal government “on the right track” through experience in conservative governance, the actual choice between the three governors based on track records would be Jeb Bush, not Christie or John Kasich. Christie would likely be more electable than the other two governors in a general election … but if electability’s the key, then Rubio will be the better choice of the two. By far.
Let’s put Christie’s assertion here to the test. If he finishes behind Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, and presumably Ted Cruz, then where exactly is Christie’s path to the nomination? South Carolina? Virginia? Texas? A fourth-place finish in New Hampshire will be the end of Christie’s campaign, whether he admits it or not.
Addendum: On the other hand, perhaps Rubio should vet his surrogates a little better to avoid giving openings to his opponents. Yikes.
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) February 4, 2016