His book sales are relevant to this criticism because he’s obviously testing out a line of attack here that he’ll use if he runs against Trump in the 2024 primary.
And the question that arises when you see those sales is: Why does he believe that anyone anywhere would care if he ran?
The conventional wisdom about the criticism he makes in the excerpt below will be that it’s potentially effective. Attacking Trump’s character aligns the critic with Democrats but attacking him for failing to enact his populist agenda aligns the critic with the Republican base. It suggests that if only the GOP will nominate Christie instead, they’ll actually get the policies they want that Trump was unable to deliver. The trick for any Republican challenger in a primary will be to present themselves as preferable to Trump while not offending MAGA, to the extent that’s possible. Telling them that Trump’s — and their — instincts are right but that his management style was ineffective may be the best anyone can do in that regard. After all, it’s a matter of record that major parts of his policy wishlist didn’t pass. You can call Christie a RINO all day but Christie’s not the one who failed to build the wall.
I don’t buy the conventional wisdom in this case, though. And even if I did, Christie wouldn’t be the guy to execute this strategy successfully.
Driving the news: “Like, let’s just go through the list of things. The wall isn’t built. Obamacare is still there. We didn’t get an infrastructure package done that we wanted, so now we’re stuck with theirs,” Christie told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff Josh Holmes.
What he’s saying: Christie also criticized the former president’s management style, saying that Trump’s aides “were given less and less freedom to do what needed to be done on behalf of the president and the country.”
“And that’s a problem. That management style is a problem. I have no problem in the main with the policies that were followed by the Trump administration, that they attempted to implement. I really think they were very, very solid.”
“That’s not the point. The point is you’ve got to be able to get it done,” Christie said.
Christie will have two problems if he tries to sell himself to Republicans as a more effective executive than Trump.
1. Most Republican primary voters don’t care about effective government. They don’t vote GOP because they’re desperate to see the wall built, they vote GOP because they loathe Democrats and want to turn the tide of the left’s influence over the culture. They’re negative partisans. They want to own the libs, not replace ObamaCare, and Christie will never do that half as zealously as Trump will.
2. Republican voters will indulge Trump to a seemingly infinite degree in his attempts to blame others for his failures. “Stop the steal” is the supreme example. Trump cost his party the White House, then zipped into Georgia in January and cost them the Senate by assuring Georgia voters that their state’s elections were corrupt, and instead of faulting him for that something like 80 percent of Republicans have decided that Trump is the victim of fraud. If Christie comes at him for not getting infrastructure done, Trump will say, “That’s because I had too many RINOs like Chris Christie in Congress blocking my plans.” And 80 percent of Republicans will agree with that too.
You can’t convince them that Trump was ineffective as president. Maybe a guy like DeSantis who has a reputation among Trump’s own base for being an effective governor could get them to bend an ear for that argument, but Chris Christie sure won’t.
As for those book sales, Christie’s new take on how to rescue the Republican Party apparently sold a grand total of 2,289 copies in its first week. That would be poor even in a vacuum but bear in mind that he’s spent the last few weeks achieving near-ubiquity in major media. He’s been on cable news relentlessly. He stopped by “The View” to promote the book. Literally as I was writing this post, he turned up on CNN to discuss the Lauren Boebert/Ilhan Omar spat for some reason. He’s everywhere. “The number of MSM interviews Chris Christie did for his book appears to have exceeded the number of books sold,” said Tim Miller about his media tour. And it wasn’t just the book that he was promoting; he’s been hinting in every interview that he’s willing to run against Trump in 2024, something no other nationally known Republican is willing to do.
So why has there been so little interest in Christie? Jonathan Last has a theory:
Chris Christie has no constituency. He is a media creation with no real-world support…
People are public figures for one of three reasons: The position they hold. The constituency which supports them. Or the ideas they champion.
Chris Christie is a man with no position, no audience, and nothing to say. He is nothing more than an inconsequential phony.
If TV bookers ever figure this out and stop gifting him air time, he’ll disappear altogether.
Even Christie’s new incarnation as The One Republican Who’ll Stand Up To Trump (besides Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger) is bogus. Despite knocking Trump for pushing “stop the steal” as far as he did, he said at least once during his media tour that he wouldn’t rule out supporting him again in 2024. “It seems certain that if Trump called Christie tomorrow and offered him the 2024 VP slot, Christie would do it in a New Jersey minute,” Last observes, undoubtedly correctly. That’s been my read on Christie’s inchoate primary challenge all along, that he’s trying to build enough of a base on the right that Trump might feel obliged to put him on the ticket or at least in the cabinet.
But that would also be a misreading of Trump by Christie. Trump craves loyalty; he wouldn’t reward disloyalty by gifting Christie with the VP spot, even if he thought he’d benefit by doing so in uniting the party. But since there is no “Chris Christie wing” of the party, there’s nothing to unite. The best Christie could hope for would be to pull 10-15 percent of the vote as the Never Trump protest candidate and those voters aren’t going to unite with Trump afterward no matter what, so Trump would gain nothing by bringing him into his campaign. Although, Trump being Trump, I’m sure he’d personally relish watching Christie have to bow and scrape before him again after being vanquished.
If Christie wants to run as a pure Not Trump figure in the primary, a place where people who refuse to vote for you-know-who can park their votes, that’s fine. He’ll get a few. But he’d lose badly and ultimately even his own voters would have little use for him. So why bother?