- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 09 March 2016
- Written by BENJAMIN SMITH | STAFF WRITER
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, two years removed from being selected chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association by his peers, suspended his once-promising presidential campaign and endorsed his party’s frontrunner, Donald Trump, for the 2016 presidential nomination in quick succession last month.
For those who thought that Christie’s time spent campaigning out of state would diminish with his conciliation speech, Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump may seem like a bad dream. Critics of the Governor find a silver lining in this newest development. However, the endorsement drew fire from within Christie’s own party for being short-sighted and opportunistic.
“Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief,” said Christie during a campaign event in New Hampshire in January.
“Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America,” said Christie.
While Christie is now an outspoken supporter of Trump, the entertainment factor won’t seemingly diminish as quickly as his presidential aspirations.
“Step down, Governor Christie” read headlines of the state’s Gannett-owned newspapers last week. Two Republican state lawmakers from Monmouth County – Senator Jennifer Beck and Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, who also teaches marketing and business at Monmouth University, followed shortly thereafter calling for Christie to make a choice: Donald Trump or N.J.
Christie’s pledge of support to Trump had been a real surprise to most who had heard the Governors’ claim that the business mogul was unfit to be president during his own failed campaign for the nation’s highest elected office.
“I just don’t think that he’s suited to be president of the United States,” Christie told Fox in August. “I don’t think his temperament is suited for that and I don’t think his experience is,” he said.
These comments were in stark contrast to Christie’s remarks made during the stunning announcement that he would endorse his formal rival for the presidency on Friday, Feb. 26.
Christie said he could “guarantee you that the one person that Hillary and Bill Clinton do not want to see on that stage is Donald Trump,” remarking that the Clintons “do not know the playbook of Donald Trump because he is rewriting the playbook.”
Christie’s latest appearance during a Trump speech in which he appeared beside the domineering candidate was noted as bizarre for his strikingly macabre stare while Trump espoused his typical talking points.
“When he appeared behind Trump during his speech last week, he looked like a mafia tough-man,” said Dino Zaccagna, a graduate student studying public policy.
“It was unbelievably embarrassing for N.J,” he added.
“Christie really ran into something unexpected with Trump,” said Associate Communications Professor, Dr. Michael Phillips-Anderson. “Christie expected to be the loud, tell it like it is candidate in the race, but he looked conciliatory next to Trump,” he said.
While the look may not have been the best for the former presidential hopeful, the implications of Christie’s backing may go beyond its initial phase. Should Trump’s early momentum carry him to the White House in the November elections, Christie may be in a prime position to capitalize on his hair-trigger endorsement.
“He clearly thinks Trump is going to win and would like a future in politics,” said Dr. Phillips Anderson.
“Christie can’t really do anything else in New Jersey. He would have very little chance of winning a Senate seat and he has not worked hard to build the Republican Party here. It seems likely that Christie would like a cabinet post, perhaps Attorney General,” he added.
Christie’s political opportunism has not been lost on Monmouth University graduate student Onnicha Sathapornchaisit.
“Christie is endorsing Trump, not because he believes Trump can ‘Make America Great Again,’ but because Trump happens to be leading in the polls and actually has a high probability of winning the Republican nomination,” she said.
“And since Trump has no political background, Christie is hoping to score points with Trump and may even become his running mate,” said Sathapornchaisit.
While the Christie endorsement may not go as far towards convincing voters to elect Donald Trump as it could have once, Christie is the most prominent of any established Republican officeholder to support Trump to date.
When asked if more establishment endorsements would follow Christie in backing Trump, Dr. Phillips Anderson conceded that Trump is rewriting the playbook – Christie’s playbook.
“Trump’s voters don’t seem that interested in endorsement and Christie is not that well liked,” said Dr. Phillips Anderson.
While Christie’s endorsement of Trump may not provide the front-runner much in the way of a bump in the already favorable polls, it may still affect Christie’s last year-and-a-half in office as governor.
There is no doubt Trump’s support is at a high-water mark, whether or not that continues however, may have nothing to do with Christie’s tactical endorsement.
PHOTO COURTESY of Business Insider