To be sure, parties sometimes reverse course, but not that easily. After the debacle of the 1964 election, when Lyndon Johnson decimated Barry Goldwater 61 percent to 38 percent, Republicans did make a move from hard right to center. Four years later, the GOP nominated Richard Nixon, who went on to win the presidency; but it took hitting rock bottom in 1964 to trigger that shift within the party. Eight years later, Nixon destroyed George McGovern by exactly the same percentages, causing Democrats to move toward the center four years later, nominating a victorious Jimmy Carter. Again, it was a wipeout that enabled each party to tell its base to shut up and sit down, that it was time to win a general election.
In a slightly different variation on the same theme, after Democrats lost the presidency in three consecutive elections—1980, 1984, and 1988—and five out of six times, they moved to the center in 1992, nominating Bill Clinton. This movement shifted the party’s fortunes, and the Democrats won two elections in a row—along with the popular vote in three consecutive contests and, in fact, five of the next six. But that successful shift took losing five out of six elections, including three in a row.
I don’t sense that “back to the drawing board” mentality in the Republican Party today, at least not strongly enough to make such a dramatic shift and nominate Christie or a Christie-like candidate. A center-right, as opposed to right-right, candidate would probably have a very good chance of winning, but that would require an attitudinal change that doesn’t seem to have happened yet, and doesn’t look likely, either.
So mark me down in the category of folks who feel that Chris Christie was not the front-runner but that this scandal makes his likelihood of winning the nomination even less likely than before.