Here’s his whole candidacy in two minutes. There’s not a whisper of policy, a reflection that he’s a centrist running in a (mostly) right-wing party. There’s not one high-budget bell or whistle of the sort you would have expected back when this guy was top-tier and the darling of the Wall Street donor class. It’s just him onstage with a mic promising to scramble your brains with so much intoxicating truth that you’ll have no choice but to nominate him out of admiration for his charismatically ballsy candor. I’m trying to imagine how this spot would have played with righties in the dark summer of 2011, when we were staring down the barrel of Romney’s inevitability. It would have felt like salvation — an authentic RINO who’d stampede over the “severely conservative” RINO from Massachusetts and then spend the general election landing body blows on Obama. Now, three years after the big election-eve backslapping session between him and O over Hurricane Sandy, it feels like desperation. This is all he has left against the Rubios and Walkers of 2016. It’s truth-bomb or bust.
The odds are long.
After New Hampshire holds its primary in early February, Christie’s advisers are hoping for a strong showing in a trifecta of blue states — Vermont, Massachusetts, and Illinois — an unorthodox path that reflects his dire circumstances. Though at one time it was thought his plainspoken political style would win over Republicans across the nation, he’s fallen far behind in the polls in Iowa, which those close to Christie increasingly consider a reach. He’s also expected to tread lightly in Florida, which is likely to be dominated by two favorite sons, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.
Christie’s team believes he could yet surprise in some conservative parts of the country. A strong finish in New Hampshire, they argue, could position him to compete several days later in South Carolina, a state rich with Northeastern transplants. There, he’s maintained a relationship with the Republican governor, Nikki Haley, with whom he occasionally texts.
At the same time Christie is narrowing his political map, he’s preparing a campaign that will be more tightly budgeted than previously thought. Once a national fundraising powerhouse who hoped to convert his Republican Governors Association chairmanship into a financial launching pad for a presidential bid, Christie’s camp now estimates that he will raise only between $20 million and $30 million by the end of the year, according to several sources briefed on the plans — an amount that is expected to pale in comparison to what Bush, Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are expected to raise.
You know the old saying — the path to the Republican nomination runs through Vermont.
As I write this, he’s ninth in the RealClearPolitics poll average for the Republican nomination, two-tenths of a point behind … Donald Trump. That’s good enough to land him a spot at the first debate in August, but maybe not for much longer. Not once in the last four national polls taken has he topped four percent, and in the very latest survey conducted by Fox News, he finished in a tie for 11th place with half that number. If that figure holds, he’d miss the cut for the debate, an also-ran excluded by novices like Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. As for his all-in play in New Hampshire, he’s doing slightly better there with a poll average of 5.6 percent, sufficient for sixth place in the poll average but roughly half the number he was pulling as recently as March. In two of the four polls taken there this month, he’s trailed Carson and Fiorina by a point.
His only hope is the same hope that keeps drawing in more candidates, namely, that the field is split so many ways that even a minor bump in the polls could push a candidate into the top tier. In both the national and New Hampshire averages, Christie’s less than 10 points behind the nominal frontrunner, Jeb Bush. If he has “a moment” at the first debate and Bush says something stupid, who’s to say Christie couldn’t bounce out to 15 percent in the polls overnight? Granted, people seem to hate him, but that’s only mostly fatal in a primary where the winning share in New Hampshire could be something like 18 percent. If he can bring, say, 20 percent of primary voters in an early state around to his side, a big win plus strong retail appeal will create momentum that woos more reluctant Republicans over. In theory. I guess.
All that said, I’m glad he’s running. Christie running as a frontrunner would have been excruciatingly overbearing; Christie running as a nothing-to-lose underdog will be fun. Can’t wait to see who he trains his fire on. Rand Paul is a given, but who else? Jeb? Kasich? Huckabee? There are going to be a lot of prickly personalities on that debate stage. Odds of a chair being thrown: 50/50.