When Chris Christie exited the Republican presidential race two weeks ago, one of the first questions on observers’ minds was who, if anyone, the New Jersey governor would endorse.
The widely held assumption was that Christie would bring clarity to the muddled “establishment lane,” backing either John Kasich or Marco Rubio. Today, however, brought one of the biggest campaign surprises of the cycle: Christie threw his support to Donald Trump.
“The single most important thing for the Republican Party is to nominate the person who gives us the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton,” Christie said. “I can guarantee that the one person Hillary and Bill Clinton don’t want to see on that stage come next September is Donald Trump.”“He is rewriting the playbook of American politics because he is providing strong leadership that is not dependent upon the status quo. The best person to beat Hillary Clinton in November is undoubtedly Donald Trump,” Christie added.
As recently as Tuesday, Trump had exactly zero endorsements from members of Congress and sitting governors. On Wednesday, however, the Republican frontrunner picked up support from two House members, and today, one of the nation’s highest profile chief executives climbed aboard Team Trump, too.
I’m not generally in the habit of agreeing with Newt Gingrich, but the former Speaker’s reaction to today’s announcement rings true: “This Chris Christie endorsement of Trump is real signal to GOP establishment that they had better begin thinking about Trump as the future.”
A lot of this has to do with Christie’s unique political footprint. If, for example, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) endorsed Trump – something that’s possible, but has not yet occurred – it’d be important, but it wouldn’t affect the race in any meaningful way. LePage and Trump appear to be cut from the same political cloth, representing an anti-establishment wing of the GOP that’s unconcerned with dignity.
Christie, however, is a power player in Republican politics, and an establishment figure in good standing. His transition from the campaign trail to Trump’s team actually matters to the extent that it reinforces the scope of the frontrunner’s support.
Or put another way, Trump is now in a position to boast about being able to pull together support, not only from different regions (Northeast, Deep South, and West), but also from different wings of the GOP.
Yahoo News ran an interesting piece a couple of days about Christie’s decision not to take on Trump, and the article has renewed salience now.
Nobody knows if a Christie vs. Trump showdown in a debate or other setting would have made enough of a difference to change the race. But just look at how dramatically Christie altered the Republican primary in a matter of mere minutes when he successfully goaded Rubio into robot mode. Who knows how Trump would have responded to Christie?“It could have been very effective,” said one high-level adviser to a presidential candidate who is no longer in the race. “Trump talks a big game but often dials back in debates.” […]“Many of us are surprised Christie never went after Trump,” said Scott Reed, senior political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
All of which brings us to today’s surprise announcement, and the prospect of Christie re-entering the arena as a Trump surrogate.
As for the speculation about Christie being a possible Trump running mate, expect the chatter to continue for a while.