Chris Christie, the establishment spoiler

Presuming Ted Cruz clinches a victory in Iowa, what happens to Christie’s campaign after a stronger showing than Rubio in New Hampshire? Not much. The brash New Jersey governor likely hits a wall soon after his all-in for New Hampshire strategy succeeds. “Most of the campaign’s time and resources have been devoted to New Hampshire, with Iowa a distant second,” Politico reported last week. That report noted that the campaign has just one full-time staffer in South Carolina — who the Christie camp will not name — and almost no organization in any other state in the Union. “Without any organization to plug into, Christie runs the risk of not being able to capitalize on any momentum gained from a strong New Hampshire performance,” Politico added.

The Christie campaign is hoping to capitalize on a strong second or third place finish in the first primary state (over the Florida senator) to catapult him into a position to win future contests, but South Carolina would likely remain competitive enough among establishment candidates to split that vote and allow Cruz or Trump to secure another February victory. Rubio’s attention to the Nevada caucuses would likely prevent a Christie surge there, and the Garden State governor would enter the “SEC primary,” dominated as it is by conservative Southern states, an underdog. The governor’s modest fundraising haul and his muted support in the polls outside of New England would seem to render him a rump candidate. And that’s before the questions raised by Bridgegate, his heterodoxy on issues like gun ownership rights and climate change, and the infamous images of him with one arm wrapped around Barack Obama’s waist just days before the 2012 election are deployed against him.

In the end, all the Christie campaign will have succeeded in doing is delivering a serious blow to Rubio’s claim to be able to win elections – a claim that is already subject to intense scrutiny by the universe of political commentators who are cautiously measuring the Florida senator’s expectation against his underwhelming support in horserace polls.