The publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader says he regrets endorsing Chris Christie for President after seeing him “kiss the Donald’s ring” over the weekend.
Joseph McQuaid, the paper’s publisher, wrote an editorial endorsing Christie’s run for the White House back in November. At the time he credited Christie for his straight-talking style but added, “it’s important when you are telling it like it is to actually know what you are talking about. Gov. Christie knows what he is saying because he has experienced it.” In other words, experience trumps bluster.
Seeing Christie endorse Trump has McQuaid regretting his earlier choice. In an editorial published Monday he writes:
Boy, were we wrong.
We endorsed Chris Christie in the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. Despite his baggage, we thought that as a Republican governor in a Democratic-leading state he had the skills and experience the presidency needs (and hasn’t had of late). We also thought he had the best chance to take on and face down Donald Trump.
Watching Christie kiss the Donald’s ring this weekend — and make excuses for the man Christie himself had said was unfit for the presidency — demonstrated how wrong we were. Rather than standing up to the bully, Christie bent his knee.
There is a sense in which Christie is not doing anything different than what the entire party apparatus may be doing fairly soon. Unless something dramatically unexpected happens, Trump is going to have a very good Super Tuesday. If so, the party that signed a loyalty pledge with him months ago is going to have to stop treating him as the unlikely front-runner and start seeing him as the increasingly likely nominee. Christie, who has been a leader in the party, is simply ahead of the curve. But make no mistake, Reince Priebus and all the rest are coming along very soon.
Christie has an uncanny knack for finding the moment of maximum uncertainty in a race and doing a cannonball into the middle of it. The Trump endorsement has a lot in common with the warm handshake he gave President Obama near the tail end of the 2012 election. At the time, Obama’s visit to a state hurt by super-storm Sandy was the pitch perfect message for his re-election campaign. And it felt to a lot of people that Christie had betrayed Mitt Romney by allowing Obama to have that moment. Did it really change the election? Probably not, but the image of “the hug” became a lightning rod for frustrated Republicans who were just starting to face the reality that Obama was winning.
With Trump there was nothing silent about Christie’s endorsement but the same dynamic is in play. Christie’s endorsement arrived at a moment when #NeverTrump was trending and it’s clear from polling that about half the party is not ready to settle on Trump. Does Christie’s endorsement really change anything beyond briefly stepping on coverage of Rubio’s debate performance the previous night? Probably not, but the image of the party insider embracing the long-shot outsider is once again a lightning rod for frustrated Republicans just starting to face the reality that Trump is winning.