It’s old news by now, but former New Jersey governor and unrelenting Donald Trump antagonist Chris Christie bailed out from the 2024 Republican presidential race a mere few days before this week’s Iowa caucuses.
Christie’s absence from the race – and the just concluded caucuses – made zero difference to the overall results of the contest, and his lack of importance has nothing to do with the New Jerseyan’s pathetic poll numbers nationally, or in Iowa. It’s always hard to pin down the reasons why politicians do what they do, but it’s particularly arduous in Christie’s case because he’s a virtual study in contrasts, but for one constant: Chris is a persistent defender of the status quo and Washington swamp establishment and appears to resent anyone who doesn’t bow down before his conformist Bush/Romney-Republican worldview.
The mystery certainly includes Iowa’s going-away winner, Donald Trump, whose presidential run only becomes more astounding with each and every twist and turn of fate. Trump draws strength from events and opposition that would’ve felled lesser human beings in recent times. Establishment pols like Christie fail to acknowledge that outsiders like Trump wouldn’t have any authority whatsoever if Republican voters weren’t utterly enthralled with the career real estate developer, tabloid celebrity and reality TV star’s Make America Great Again platform.
Trump is the ultimate political salesman and his product is his promise to restore accountability and capability to the federal government. By contrast, what did Christie offer anyone? The hope of electing someone with a hate Trump orientation? Chris’s mission was absurd from the beginning, but there are things to be ascertained from what the rotund Garden State political brawler brought to the table.
In an article titled “Chris Christie’s parting lesson about Trump and the GOP field”, the always insightful and salient W. James Antle III wrote at the Washington Examiner after Christie liquified his campaign last week:
“Not only did Christie pointedly decline to endorse Haley, but he also made comments that will likely be used against her in the coming weeks. ‘She’s gonna get smoked. And you and I both know, and she’s not up to this,’ he said just before his announcement. He has reportedly trashed her in similar terms in other private conversations, including with fellow candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).
“Christie acknowledged in his withdrawal speech that he had no realistic path to the Republican nomination. But that had been clear for months. What Christie has left for him is a path to becoming a Liz Cheney Republican, feted on media outlets like MSNBC and, he hopes, remembered favorably in history.
“That would have been compromised by winning just enough votes in New Hampshire to ensure a first-place finish by Trump, possibly enabling an early state sweep by the former president. Among Christie’s new constituency, that would have made him more of a Ralph Nader- or Jill Stein-like figure than a Liz Cheney profile in courage... The fact is that all of these candidates have their own ambitions and their own reasons for running. Their desire to defeat Trump is secondary to their true motivations.”
Hear, hear! Somebody finally said (wrote) it! The nebulous, ill-defined and boundary-less Never Trump faction exists only for those who hate Donald Trump to further their own political aspirations and nothing else. Democrats hate Trump too, but at least their animus is directed towards accomplishing something – electing senile Joe Biden to a second term and/or finishing the Barack Obama-stated goal of “transforming” America into a place where people resent each other for immutable characteristics like skin color and station in life.
Chris Christie embarked on a mission to stop Trump, period, offering up himself as an alternative, but he must have quickly grasped that there weren’t enough Trump-haters in the GOP to give him a realistic chance at winning the party nomination. Christie was destined to quit from the beginning. And he wasn’t even successful in his quest to stop Trump, who Chris admitted was going to “smoke” his establishment competition (Nikki Haley).
I think by most measuring sticks, Christie’s sorry tale defines a loser!
But Christie’s not-so-sudden implosion was more than just a mere political loss. Never Trumpers are a little like Japanese kamikaze pilots at the end of World War II. They volunteered for duty that looks heroic and incredibly brave (in their minds, standing up to Trump) to the misguided, but it’s really just foolhardy and forgettable. Kamikazes and Never Trump Republicans take themselves out of the running to advance what they envision as the greater good – to try and defeat the enemy – but by doing so they take every last vestige of war fighting power with them the micro-second their plane explodes or is shot down. They’re done.
Gone. Kaput. Consumed. Depleted. Exhausted. Worthless. Useless. Selfish?
Japanese kamikaze pilots gave their lives in suicide missions to do what they were ordered to do – which was further their country’s military mission. The men must have realized their nation was most likely doomed at that point, but they did what they did to bring honor to their families and guarantee themselves, in their religious tradition, a place in the afterlife (or it may be reincarnation, I’m not sure).
Never Trumpers like Chris Christie grant themselves a sort of God-complex, as though they individually have command to steer policy direction as it pertains to the political balance-of-power. To that end, unbending Never Trumpers deliver forceful, fist-on-the-podium speeches, make threats, try to draw attention to themselves as saviors of the Constitution – or “democracy” as Joe Biden would have it – and attract disgruntled uber-rich backers who just hate Trump. No doubt Christie had a lot of such folks contributing to his destined-to-fizzle run.
But when he crashed his candidacy, like so many dirigibles bursting into flames and falling to earth from the skies over New Jersey (sorry to repeat the analogy of the Hindenburg disaster in May of 1937 – a blimp, right?), all such power receded from him instantly. As Antle alluded to in his piece, Christie may have agreed to go so that he can remain eligible for a Liz Cheney-like outsider commentary slot at a leftwing TV news outlet, or he could just devote his remaining work days to pounding donuts and coffee at a Lincoln Project-type operation. But now, even less so than just a week ago, who cares what Chris Christie has to say about anything?
Christie’s political life force is spent, his proverbial hulk crumpled up and his political organic matter smashed to a pulp, having fallen way short of reaching its intended take-down-Trump undertaking. Unlike kamikaze pilots, however, no one will remember Chris for long – there will be no candle-lit tributes to a sacrificed soul for the “cause”, instead, just contempt from the winning side for a man who once showed promise (when Christie took on the teacher’s unions in New Jersey in 2010) but left the political world as a disgraced failure.
Adding salt to the already festering Christie/Never Trump wound, the Trump haters are getting exactly what they’ve begged for all along – a clean, practically solo shot at Trump -- and they’re still going to lose. From the outset of the 2024 GOP race, when Trump announced his long-anticipated candidacy, the anyone-but-Trump crowd pleaded with potential candidates to stay out so as to allow the not-Trump Republican voters to consolidate around a single candidate.
The problem being that the folks opposed to another Trump go ‘round couldn’t make up their minds as to who the magic bullet candidate should be. Nikki Haley declared her candidacy in February of last year, citing the need for a “new generation” of leaders to take the reins of the party away from Trump, who, according to her and others, allegedly was too damaged to be able to defeat incumbent senile Joe Biden.
Several other candidates soon joined Haley, and Florida’s popular governor, Ron DeSantis, finally made it official after the state’s legislative session concluded in May. Many conservatives who were wary of tapping Trump again figured DeSantis was a perfect alternative, a tried-and-true conservative who’d racked up conservative victory after conservative victory on the way to winning reelection in a year (2022) where many, many Republicans didn’t do so well.
Soon after there were ten or more announced candidates. Trump had originally called for everyone to stay out, but once several made public their intentions, the former president said “the more the merrier”, counting on the not-Trump vote to split into little pieces for his competitors.
Everyone, including Trump, watched as the former president’s polling lead grew while others’ standing shrunk or stayed the same. There were desperate pleas for all-but-one to get out so as to foster a not-Trump vs. Trump grudge match. It didn’t happen. Don’t forget, there were nine not-Trump candidates on stage for the first “official” GOP debate in August while Trump boycotted and gave an interview to Tucker Carlson instead.
“Consolidation” happened slowly as contenders dropped away. Trump veep Mike Pence was one of the first to call it quits after he failed to catch on with the primary electorate. Others followed – but none of the survivors was successful in taking the balance of the dropped-out candidates’ support. In other words, there was no real voter “consolidation”.
Now the operative question is where Christie’s New Hampshire backers will go since their obese Trump-abuse spewing robot has hung up his hot microphone. Will they flock to Nikki Haley as the old guard establishment hopes will transpire? Will they prefer DeSantis? Will they simply stay home? Will it figure into New Hampshire’s results?
Does it matter?
Even if all of Christie’s voters head en masse to Haley’s camp and the former Trump U.N. ambassador eeks out a close second in the Granite State – or maybe wins a squeaker – the good feelings will end as soon as the campaign moves to more conservative states with solid Trump majorities. Plus, if Ron DeSantis does get out, the bulk of his support almost assuredly goes to Trump.
There’s no realistic path for Nikki Haley to ultimately defeat Trump. The Never Trump side will lose – again – and they’ll be bitter about it, projecting blame in all directions, most notably at the millions of MAGA backers who love their candidate. A month or so from now, no one will notice Chris Christie isn’t there anymore, much less miss him. Never Trump ends up lost… again.
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