So this morning I observed that the kind of “defenses” conservatives are offering for Chris Christie couldn’t make him feel very cozy. And now I’d say the same for his supporters in the GOP.

WaPo’s Chris Cillizza updated his “top ten” candidate list for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. And guess who’s still at the top? You got it.

But here’s the thing: Cillizza isn’t keeping his money on Christie because he’s sure the Guv is innocent of wrongdoing or because he doesn’t think there’s real damage here. Oh no:

Make no mistake: Bridge-gate has hurt Christie and slowed, badly, the considerable momentum he built during a sweeping reelection victory in 2013. But, assuming that no other revelations emerge linking him to the closure of several lanes of traffic in Fort Lee, Christie remains the candidate — with the possible exception of former Florida governor Jeb Bush — who is best positioned to build the coalition of major donors, party activists and GOP elites necessary to win the nomination.

You’ll notice Chris doesn’t mention actual caucus or primary voters; I suppose that’s forgivable here during the Invisible Primary phase of events. But the bottom line is that while the putative 2016 GOP field isn’t as bad as 2012’s–that would be very difficult to achieve–it’s no great shakes, either. Political parties in this country typically look for leaders who will raise their electoral appeal. Republicans had better get focused on finding a presidential nominee that doesn’t lower it.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.