In the coming weeks, the Daily Campus will be publishing profiles of every active presidential candidate. The first installment is an examination of Chris Christie.
The dominant public discourse concerning Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie of late has been not if, but when, will he exit the presidential race.
In fact, the most salient Christie story in national news involves his being kicked out of an Amtrak “quiet car” after receiving noise complaints for his loud phone conversation.
In 2011, the New York Times Magazine called Christie “one of the most intriguing political figures in America.” His blunt, bold, and, by modern standards, moderate brand of conservatism made him a star in the Republican Party. Instead of running at the zenith of his intrigue in 2012, though, Christie decided to be patient.
Now it is 2015, and Chris Christie is eighth in Republican primary polling at 2.7 percent, according to the Huffington Post (other polls have him even lower compared to his Republican opponents). Christie’s physical presence, initially a signifier of his large personality and ambition, has become the perpetual butt of late night jokes.
As the New Republic wrote in 2014, “Mere weeks ago, Christie was a straight-talking, corruption-busting everyman. Now, he is a liar, a bully, a buffoon.”
Christie’s latest video is a two minute advertisement entitled “Telling it Like it is.”
“I get accused a lot of times of…saying what’s on my mind just a little bit too loudly,” Christie said in a filmed campaign stop. The video attempts to take a supposed weakness – Christie’s bombast – and flip it into a strength.
But Christie’s issue is not necessarily his style. It is, instead, a string of scandals and negative publicity that started with traffic delays on the George Washington Bridge that have sunk what was once his greatest asset: credibility.
Chris Christie’s administration purposely closed the lanes on the bridge in order to enact revenge on Fort Lee’s mayor for not supporting Christie’s gubernatorial reelection bid. During the stunt, medical professionals were made to attend a health emergency on foot, leaving the ambulance they were traveling in.
“Bridgegate” was made into a public spectacle, with Christie’s aides, who sent text messages like “Is it wrong that I’m smiling,” during the debacle, mostly taking the fall in the courts. Christie has subsequently taken a dive in the public eye.
Bridgegate spawned investigations aimed at unearthing the “reality” of who Chris Christie is. Rather than being the principled, bipartisan candidate he built his political identity around, Christie was now painted as a bully by the media, especially after the mayor of Hoboken told a story about Christie threatening to withdraw hurricane recovery funding if Hoboken did not favor a development project borne out of Christie’s office.
“Bridgegate went public at the exact wrong time for Christie's presidential hopes. In a world without the bridge problems…he [Christie] could make the case that he had cracked the code on how Republicans can win in blue states, with women and with Hispanic voters. And he'd have been right,” the Washington Post wrote. “Instead, Christie spent those six months fending off questions about what he knew and when he knew it. The best-case scenario for Christie in all of this was as a boss who was woefully unaware of what people that worked for him and he trusted were doing. Obviously, that's not a terrific best-case scenario if you want to run for president.”
Chris Christie is currently fighting for his political life. This has involved him making incendiary comments about the “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement.
“Listen, I don’t believe that that movement [BLM] should be justified when they’re calling for the murder of police officers, no,” Christie said on Face the Nation. “They’ve been chanting in the streets for the murder of police officers.”
This comment was a part of Christie’s critique of President Barack Obama, whom Christie is still trying to distance himself from after Obama visited New Jersey in 2012 following Hurricane Sandy. Christie has been vilified by Republicans for “hugging” Obama on this occasion, although it was more of a friendly handshake, and included Obama putting his arm around the governor.
Christie is an establishment Republican. He is anti-union, anti-choice, anti-gay-rights, anti-economic-regulation, a spending cut machine, and has stylized himself as a warrior for the middle class. What set him apart from his opponents was his personality, momentum, and propensity for bipartisanship. Since his personality and momentum have broken down, and bipartisanship is not an asset in the rabidly partisan Republican primary, Christie will likely drop out of the race soon.
Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.