Would Christie be able to build on a victory in New Hampshire? Maybe not. It’s possible that — if a very conservative candidate wins Iowa and a moderate candidate wins New Hampshire — the election will reset in South Carolina, creating an opening for someone who didn’t do well in either of the first two contests. But it’s also possible that momentum from winning the early primary states would set up a showdown between Christie (or another moderate candidate) and a “conservative alternative” in later primaries.
That’s a showdown Christie would be in a position to win.
Christie, for all of his flaws as a candidate, has done decently in the endorsement primary (though few endorsements have been given so far). He’s gotten two endorsements from governors, more than any other Republican. Neither Carson nor Jindal has picked up any support in the endorsement primary. There are a lot of Republican blue-state governors out there like Christie, and, as my colleague David Wasserman has demonstrated, blue states and congressional districts have a lot of delegates. If factional candidates win the early states, the chances of a prolonged primary campaign probably increase, and there are a lot of big, delegate-rich blue states later in the primary calendar.
Christie can make a pretty good argument to voters and potential endorsers that he’s the most electable candidate. No, his numbers in New Jersey aren’t great, but there’s a reason he won twice in a deep-blue state. You can see his ability to connect with voters in this video where he talks about drug addiction. His electability argument would certainly be stronger than a socially conservative candidate’s in a country that is becoming less religious. That’s a big deal when the Democratic candidate will almost certainly be Hillary Clinton.