Of Course Trump Snubbed Christie. What Did He Expect?

It’s hard not to feel a little bit sorry for Chris Christie. Once hailed as the superstar of the Republican Party with Reaganesque crossover appeal, Christie has seen his star fall dramatically. His approval rating is abysmal, and if Trump fails to win in November it’s likely that his political career is finished.

It’s mostly his own fault. His egotism and bullying personality have not worn well with voters. Screaming at teachers and using the power of the governor’s office to close bridges for petty political revenge tends to make someone unpopular, especially in a blue state like New Jersey.

But this year’s presidential contest has been the nadir of a once promising career. After a lackluster campaign in which Christie could neither play the outsider as well as Trump or Cruz nor rise to the top of the establishment lane <i>a la</i> Rubio, Christie played the only card he had left: carry Trump’s water by knocking out Rubio. He proceeded to eviscerate Rubio in one of the GOP debates, effectively ending Rubio’s campaign. He then became one of Trump’s earliest high-profile endorsers, earning scorn and ridicule for appearing at press conferences quietly standing behind Trump like an uncomfortable courtier or important prisoner of war even as Trump humiliated him.

Then, after months of loyalty and practically begging for the job, Christie was snubbed for the vice-presidential pick as Trump chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence–despite the fact that Pence had endorsed Ted Cruz.

But it’s hard to see what Christie could possibly have expected. First, like most bullies Donald Trump respects only strength. Christie showed none, and Trump abused Christie’s weakness mercilessly.

Second, even a casual observer would note that Christie doesn’t offer Trump any advantages on the ticket. Their personalities are both brash and aggressive, and they both come from blue northeastern states that aren’t going to vote Republican. Christie isn’t handsome or a reliable talking point generator, and he doesn’t appeal to social conservatives or Tea Partiers to shore up Trump’s base. He’s a white male, so there’s no minority or female crossover appeal to be had. He’s not particularly well-liked by the conservative donor class. He’s not a military general, nor is he an outsider from the business world that would double down on Trump’s disruptive credentials like, say, a Carly Fiorina or even Peter Thiel might have been.

So there’s no rationale at all for Christie to think he should be selected as Trump’s VP pick outside of pure loyalty–and Trump isn’t exactly reliable on that front, either.

Christie would have been far better off backing Trump quietly from a distance while trying to make himself the leader of what’s left of the establishment wing of the party within the governors’ circle. That way he could present himself as a central figure to help the GOP rise from the ashes of a Trump defeat, or a reasonable cabinet-level choice in a Trump Administration.

But Christie is a desperate man having a bad year, and he decided to go for broke instead. It’s hard not to feel bad for him, but he did it to himself.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.