But Christie is a force in his own right. He needs to use a Donald Trump-free forum as his time to shine. Even a modest bump could put him back on the main debate stage next time around.
The obvious counterpoint to this is that Christie is coming off his best debate performance (in fact, he had two strong debates in a row) and it didn’t help him. How much can he really expect to get out of the less-watched earlier debate? And while Fiorina has continued to poll well enough for primetime, she’s had trouble sustaining the momentum created by her initial debate successes.
Yet if Christie is going to continue his presidential campaign, he has to play the bad hand he’s been dealt the best way he can. Knocking it out of the park in a debate with just four candidates and none of the biggest celebrities in the race might be the only way to keep his struggling bid alive.