“At this point, tearing people down seems to be the only thing our political system still knows how to do,” says William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think-tank. With two years before the primaries begin, the staying power of the contenders will be tested. New numbers released in a Quinnipiac University poll show that Christie has suffered a body blow, moving from a statistical tie against Clinton to 8 points behind. The frontrunner label may no longer apply to Christie, but his personality and the gritty allure of New Jersey politics will keep him in the spotlight.
“Coming up in New Jersey politics without getting dirty is like swimming in the Atlantic without getting wet,” says Jack Pitney, Professor of Politics at Claremont McKenna College. Pitney expects Christie will face further revelations as partisan investigators and the media pore through public records in courthouses all over Jersey. Before entering academia, Pitney worked at the Republican National Committee, where he did opposition research. He mostly combed through public records looking for juicy quotes. That was before the Internet. Today, the ease of accessing data over the Internet is the big rock candy mountain of “oppo” research. The field has grown exponentially and been so professionalized that George Washington University offers a summer course to graduate students in political science titled “The Not-So-Dark Art of Campaign Research.”