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The Right Resistance: Stale jelly doughnut Chris Christie can’t thrive on hot air and anger alone

It’s strange how it sometimes takes a few days to assess the fallout from a news event.

The reaction from viewers witnessing a live political-type occurrence usually ranges from, “Yeah! Get it done! This is what we’ve been waiting for!” to, “Uh oh, better stop that!” to “He’s not going to recover from this” to “I’ve had enough, bring down the curtain” to “I can’t believe he (or she) just said that! This will have lasting effect.”


The last hypothetical quote describes Chris Christie... somewhat. The former New Jersey governor, 2016 Republican presidential candidate-turned Donald Trump strong supporter-turned Trump hater in 2023 has been in the headlines a surprising amount lately considering his standing as a current GOP contender is only slightly warmer and life-filled than lukewarm coffee. Christie famously said after last week’s debate that the race was down to himself, Trump and Nikki Haley, notoriously leaving Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis out of the mix for unspecified reasons.


Of course, Christie didn’t include businessman Vivek Ramaswamy in the mix, probably because the big rotund Garden State blowhard doesn’t think much of the young Ohioan’s bid to shake up the subject matter on the campaign trail – and in the debates. For those who might’ve snoozed through the program – or didn’t watch at all – last week, Christie, like a chivalrous pal or defender of stolen political feminine virtue, defended Nikki Haley against Vivek’s charges that she’d enriched herself through her government contacts, and that she was corrupt.


Since that evening, Christie has reversed course on Haley, suggesting she’s way too soft on criticizing Trump. What’s it gonna be, Chris? Haley is challenging DeSantis for second place in Iowa (both leaps and bounds behind Trump) and is elbowing out Christie for Never Trump votes in The Granite State and her native South Carolina.


At any rate, Christie still insists his donors like everything he’s been saying and that he’s in the GOP presidential race for the long-term despite near certain disaster in Iowa and a highly questionable finish in New Hampshire coming his way within a month and a half’s time. Christie habitually changes the subject of his polling deficit by saying the actual canvassing hasn’t begun yet, and that voters will have some sort of magic epiphany about Trump after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.


Sure, Chris. And Santa will fill your oversized stocking with spare ballots with your name marked on them to make your celebrations festive. But any such micro-boost probably wouldn’t quiet the calls for Christie to get out of the race, combine with Haley or just make himself disappear from the political scene altogether.


In an article titled “Christie gets new life after punchy debate”, Jared Gans reported at The Hill:


“Christie fiercely criticized former President Trump at the [last] Wednesday debate hosted by NewsNation. He landed attacks on the three rivals who appeared on stage and got in the most debate speaking time he has had so far, by CNN’s count.


“But Republicans acknowledge the longer Christie stays in the race, the more he could divide the field and help the former president seal the GOP nomination.


“’The better Christie performs, the more likely Trump will be the nominee of the party. It’s that simple because Christie will not be the nominee of the party,’ said Republican strategist Justin Sayfie. ‘And the better he performs, the longer he will stay in the race. And the longer he stays in the race, the bigger advantage Trump has to win the nomination.’”


At first glance I shook my head no and disagreed with Sayfie’s analysis, but the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with the Republican consultant (on this one, at least). Here it is, Christie acting as Trump’s biggest detractor within his own party presidential race, repeating his attacks like a Gatling gun in the Anglo-Zulu War, trying to make hay over Trump – and by doing so, he’s only prolonged the agony for the anti-Trump side.


Who knows, by the looks of it, wouldn’t Trump’s opponents have been better off by leaving the guy alone?


Consolidation among the not-Trump candidates has been the battle cry for those wishing to nominate someone other than the 2016 and 2020 nominee within the Republican party, but the candidates themselves apparently didn’t agree with the reasoning. Yes, a few of the middle-tier candidates have closed their campaign offices (Mike Pence, Tim Scott and Doug Burgum), but there are hangers-on still loitering on the sidelines waiting for miracles to happen after the calendar turns to 2024.


Christie must realize he has no chance to win the nomination himself, simply because there aren’t enough Trump-haters among the Republican grassroots to sustain an inexplicable comeback from a politician who’s known to most everyone but only favored by a small slice of the people who actually cast ballots. Christie carries the aura of a week-old jelly doughnut – once enticing but left out on the counter too long until he became stale. Now, no one will consume the leftovers and crumbs.


Christie’s “lane”, to the extent he ever had one, was to run as an establishment candidate who might pick up votes from other “lanes” based on single issue offerings. He’s criticized Nikki Haley, for example, for having two sets of positions on abortion, taking umbrage with her stated willingness to sign a six-week abortion ban in South Carolina, but arguing against it in New Hampshire and more culturally liberal locations.


He's defended Haley on many of her top subjects, however, such as more money for Ukraine and involving America in endless foreign military engagements, making the case that the bad guys must be defeated “over there” to ensure they don’t invade our shores and threaten “democracy” itself. The Ukraine defenders sound as though they approve of president senile Joe Biden’s policy, which isn’t making them friends with America First-type Republicans.


But even if Christie up and left the race today, I doubt it would result in a big boost for Haley or a lessening of Trump’s lead in any of the early states. As I’ve explained on numerous occasions, Trump’s pool of voters doesn’t even consider candidates like Christie or Nikki, both of which cast shadows of early eras of Republicans where it was argued the reason why the GOP lost elections was because it wasn’t “moderate” or “tolerant” enough – and that the conservative, limited government and/or social conservative message was a loser.


If Barack Obama’s arrival on the Democrat scene initiated a movement to take the formerly working-class party base leftward, Trump’s entrance into the 2016 GOP race was meant to elevate the conservative grassroots’ concerns to the forefront. Instead of favoring “free trade” agreements like NAFTA or looking the other way at unfettered illegal immigration, Trump’s “America First” emphasis resonated with the people who actually do the living and working in the country’s small towns and rural areas.


Democrats then assumed the role of combining big business with big government, which could then promote “woke” causes and corporatism, which still exists today. While Christy and other Republicans criticized Ron DeSantis for going to war with Disney, the conservative grassroots applauded it (though Trump didn’t join in the anti-Disney chorus, for some reason). Trump’s movement generated millions of new or first-time voters, the type of person who only votes for Trump.


Christie – and Nikki Haley and to a slightly lesser extent, Ron DeSantis – has no chance to gain the favor of these conservative/populist Republicans. The niche that the old Bush/McCain/Romney Republicans once filled has been increasingly reduced in size, or has gone over to the Democrats. Think of the Republicans who endorsed Joe Biden in 2020 – John Kasich, Cindy McCain, Christine Whitman and Colin Powell, among others.


Then, of course, there’s Liz Cheney, whose contemporary supporters probably weren’t hardcore Republicans to begin with. I’m frankly a little surprised that Cheney hasn’t come right out to throw her weight behind Christie or Nikki Haley. Maybe I missed something. It’s my impression that Christie is only slightly less loathed than Liz, which accounts for the tolerance Republicans have shown him in the 2024 race thus far.


One common characteristic that all of the Never Trumpers share in common is… anger. Whereas a Trump rally is punctuated with a healthy dose of angst directed at senile Joe Biden, the Washington establishment and Republicans like Christie and Cheney who turned tail towards the enemy and ran to the establishment media for favorable coverage after January 6, 2021, his appearances also include an optimism and plan for the future – the MAGA agenda. Even Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” is brimming with confidence and forward thinking.


Does Christie even have a slogan? I seem to recall it was something about truth, and that he alone is the one who delivers it. “Because the Truth Matters” is his mantra, like this would really stir waves of angry Americans to reject Trump and adopt Chris Christie. The truth bending that Republicans are actually concerned about is Biden and the Democrats’, not Donald Trump and his tendency to exaggerate from time to time.


Christie’s ability to maintain control over anger – his own, and the miniscule element of the GOP electorate that gets up every morning and still boils over January 6th and Trump’s purported role in it – will determine how well he does in the early states and set his prospects for sustaining his candidacy.


From the outside peering in, his odds don’t look good.


Chris Christie has shown a legitimate talent for taking debate appearances and turning them into pundit buzz for days or weeks after the event. Christie remains a colorful figure in the GOP and appeals to a very specific voter mindset – mainly the ruling elites who care more about playing nice with the Democrats than policy victories. Christie can’t survive on hot air alone.

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