Actually, Christie made the shrewd and correct call today
posted at 6:20 pm on June 4, 2013 by Guy Benson
Viewing today’s events through a purely political lens, Christie’s actions were pretty savvy. He tossed a bone to Republicans and Democrats alike while giving both sides something to grouse about, too. His press announcement was decisive and framed in rhetoric that appeals to citizens’ sense of fair play; he repeatedly intoned that respecting the people’s “voice” and “choice” is his top priority in this matter, and that citizens should get the opportunity to send an elected Senator to the Beltway as soon as the law allows. Democrats will whine about the supplementary cost of the special election (finally, some spending they oppose!), but I suspect most New Jerseyans won’t care. Christie has the small-“d” democratic high ground here. Democrats will get their new Senator sooner rather than later, and Republicans will get a very temporary federal-level placeholder plus a better chance to make gains in November. Whatever political maneuvering Christie pulled off today, it seems clear that his primary concern is state-level, not national, politics. Many political reporters are looking at today’s events through the prism of 2016, which I think as a mistake. Christie is first and foremost positioning himself for a strong re-elect, possibly with down-ballot gains, this fall. If — if — he has a presidential run in mind, he has obviously concluded that a robust re-election and a fruitful second term will be more valuable to him down the road than a few sops to national conservatives in 2012 and 2013. It’s a bit frustrating, but I think it’s shrewd.
David Freddoso adds some legal analysis suggesting that Christie followed the letter of the law, thus allowing the people of New Jersey to elect their next United States Senator on the earliest legally-permissible date:
In other words, provided he made the proclamation of Lautenberg’s vacancy today, the latest he could have legally set the election was at the end of October. Christie made a point of mentioning that the primary is 70 days from today, and the general election is 64 days after that — the earliest possible date. Now, I can’t find anything in the statute that says Christie could not have waited a few weeks before issuing a proclamation — theoretically, this might have let him set the election for November 5.
Christie himself conceded that the “wait to declare a vacancy” option was legally viable, but waved it away as unnecessarily politicized foot-dragging. Also, click through and read the update for a few reasons why Booker may not sail to victory as easily as some might think. Anyway, I’d stick around to listen to your furious responses, but I have a Beltway Cocktail Party™ to attend. Peace.
UPDATE – Taking a break between martinis. The most valid criticism of Christie on this (as I mention in my linked original post) is that he’s wasting $12 million (not $24 million, unless you oppose primaries) to hold the special election a few weeks before a regularly-scheduled general election. As Freddoso indicates, he’d have to wait a fair amount of time to officially declare the seat vacant to do that, according to the law. Christie says that’s a gimmick. Sure, but it’s a money-saving gimmick. So let’s say Christie had fudged things to assure the elections would all occur on the same day, thus saving millions. Would conservatives be criticizing him for making Democrats’ lives a lot easier up and down the ballot, which would be the obvious political outcome of that decision?