He’s been out of the presidential race for a little more than two weeks. But current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is hardly staying out of the limelight. The rotund, bloviating firebrand politician has joined a string of fairly-recent endorsements on behalf of in-your-face business mogul and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
Some of the more high-profile politicians who’ve joined the pro-Trump fray, in the past several weeks, have included: former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, former U.S. Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, incumbent U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and incumbent U.S. Congressmen Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY).
It isn’t hard to see why Governor Christie would choose to join this illustrious club of Trumpsters.
Ideologically, they may appear to be a diverse group. Sarah Palin is a far right-winger, whereas Scott Brown legislated from a centrist position. But Palin – due to her constant flubs during the 2008 Presidential Election – is widely regarded as a joke. Aside from speaking tours and serving as a Fox News commentator, Palin’s most memorable post-gubernatorial project was her 2010 reality show on TLC. And Brown, while having had fewer foot-in-mouth moments than Palin, will always be remembered for his 1982 semi-nude Cosmopolitan spread during his law school days.
Chris Collins has molded himself in Governor Christie’s image to a smaller degree. Although he’s not a mainstream household name, Collins has experienced his own share of loudmouthed blunders. While still serving as Erie County Executive, he was accused of making anti-Semitic comments. Congressman Collins had also, in his past, endured allegations of sexual harassment and election fraud.
Duncan Hunter, while vocal in his stances, hasn’t done a whole lot in terms of public showmanship. Perhaps his most garish display was puffing an e-cigarette during a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing to express opposition to anti-vaping legislation. He is, however, quite opinionated in sharing Trump’s sentiments on immigration. Similarly, Jeff Sessions has kept a fairly low profile in the U.S. Senate since his failed 1986 U.S. District Court nomination where he was implicated as hostile to the NAACP and ACLU. Sessions is a staunch conservative vote in Congress; yet, he doesn’t rub it in people’s faces.
Jan Brewer, who served as Arizona’s governor from 2009 to 2014, has also kept her foot out of her mouth in media-based forums. Her most notorious comment was a claim that her state’s border patrol had discovered headless bodies of immigrants out in the desert. Reflective of Trump’s hard line against undocumented immigrants, Brewer is prominently known as a chief proponent of Arizona’s infamous “Show-me-your-papers” law (SB1070).
“Compared to the rest of these public figures, Governor Christie is arguably the most Trump-like apostle to jump on The Donald’s bandwagon.”
Compared to the rest of these public figures, Governor Christie is arguably the most Trump-like apostle to jump on The Donald’s bandwagon.
Christie is associated with the same trait for which Trump gets commended: telling it like it is. He won’t shy away from confronting hostile audience members who pose tough questions to him at town hall meetings. Throughout the GOP primary debates, Christie reserved most of his rhetorical bile for Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina. Despite mildly butting heads with Trump himself on a few occasions, Christie largely steered clear of getting into it with Trump while on-stage.
A general consensus amongst pundits seems to be that Governor Christie made a grave error by essentially skipping the Iowa Caucuses and concentrating a lion’s share of his efforts on New Hampshire. Nationally-renowned electoral statistician Nate Silver points to factors such as Christie being more moderate than most of his Republican primary opponents, as well as Christie’s failure to embrace the same magnitude of larger-than-life personality that’s carried Trump so far while in the media’s crosshairs. Silver also cites Christie’s proximity to Trump’s business dealings in Atlantic City.
It was very telling how Christie refrained from going after Donald Trump following Trump’s allegations that Muslim-American citizens were cheering at the 9/11 attacks from New Jersey soil. Now, when embracing Trump’s candidacy as an outright supporter, Christie makes unfounded claims – such as alleging that Trump has won most of the Trump University lawsuits. In fact, many of those cases are still pending.
“Christie seems to think that latching onto the gargantuan spectacle that is The Donald will somehow resuscitate his own reputation.”
Christie seems to think that latching onto the gargantuan spectacle that is The Donald will somehow resuscitate his own reputation. After all, legions of conservatives regard Christie as nothing more than a RINO. They flout evidence such as Christie’s physical embrace of President Obama during the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort. They trumpet the Fort Lee “Bridgegate” scandal as a prime example of cronyism and corruption from Christie. This is the same brand of depravity that so many conservative purists claim is beneath them – the very flavor of behavior they say the public should only expect from Democrats.
Interestingly, former 1990s-era New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman – a pro-choice, liberal Republican – has recently lashed out against Trump’s candidacy. Whitman, who’s no longer active in electoral politics, even suggested she might support Hillary Clinton if Trump ends up being her party’s nominee.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Christie is embracing Trump out of sheer self-interest. He’s presently term-limited from running for gubernatorial reelection in 2017. Christie knows his only chance of remaining relevant in the short term would be if a President Trump tapped him as U.S. Attorney General (or a Summer 2016 selection as Trump’s own running mate). If elevated to a higher office in that manner, Christie would have to resign as Governor of New Jersey for the remaining nine months of his final term; this could potentially give a leg up to his successor, Kim Guadagno – New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor and a fellow Republican who likely has a salacious eye on a gubernatorial run of her own, next year.
If Trump is the GOP presidential nominee and loses, Christie must hope he could count on Trump’s support in the event Christie opts to run for the presidency again in 2020. That scenario would likely pit Christie against opponents such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, U.S. Senator John Thune of South Dakota, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. Governor Haley has endorsed Rubio, whereas the latter three have remained neutral in this year’s primaries.
But the sad reality remains for Chris Christie: due to his performance (or underperformance, as the case might be), political junkies tend to view Christie as a clown who fumbled his way to a couple of devastating losses. Now, his final attempt at making a name for himself would be to board this high-velocity monorail piloted by the same character who has thrived at doing what Christie himself failed to: Donald Trump.
“Now, his final attempt at making a name for himself would be to board this high-velocity monorail piloted by the same character who has thrived at doing what Christie himself failed to: Donald Trump.”
Governor Christie is banking on exploiting the same wave of celebrity and sensation that carried Arnold Schwarzenegger to two consecutive gubernatorial victories in California. But we saw how well that worked out for Schwarzenegger: shamed as a philanderer, now relegated to being hired by NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice to inherit Trump’s old job.
Chris Christie had better hope his desire to become a garish sidekick doesn’t result in him getting nailed to the same political crucifix from which Sarah Palin has found herself dangling.