Is Chris Christie the Future of the GOP?

The former New Jersey governor and Trump acolyte has made clear he wants to run for president in 2024.

In an interview with Steve Clemons published by The Hill on Tuesday, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared his interest in running for president in 2024. That Christie has presidential ambitions is no surprise, but he does seem to be a bit delusional:

But once you’ve been a governor, I think you always feel like you’ve got something to contribute. And so, yeah, I would certainly, you know, look at the race in 2024 and I would not back off from that at all. I feel like there are a lot of atmospheric things that happened in the lead up to the ’16 race, especially the Bridgegate matter which now has been dismissed by the United States Supreme Court in a 9-0 vote that there was no crime committed there. And yet the media and others convicted people before they even had a trial, and it materially affected my ability to run for president. Now that we’ve had that cleared away and it’s no longer a controversy, you know, from my perspective, maybe 2024 is time to try to go after that job again.

Chris Christie maintained that he had nothing to do with the closure of lanes over the George Washington Bridge in New York City, but now he is hiding behind the fact that the Supreme Court found that it didn’t constitute a federal crime because it was an example of petty political payback rather than self-enrichment. I think people were outraged that Christie would inconvenience and endanger citizens for petty, political reasons, and I don’t think most people were pleased to learn that this is permissible under the law. However they feel about the Court’s ruling, they concluded that they didn’t like Christie. It’s about what he did and why he did it, not about what some judge or prosecutor thinks about it. And it will always be a controversy.

If the 2020 election is a blowout win for Joe Biden, the Republican field in 2024 will be wide open. I supposed Chris Christie will have as much chance to win the nomination as anyone, but he’ll have to figure out what Republican voters want. I imagine that if Trump loses Texas and other supposedly reliable red states, the party will at least attempt the kind of introspective process that led to Bill Clinton’s rise in the Democratic Party after the crushing defeats of 1980, 1984, and 1988. The GOP might conclude that an outright conservative no longer has a chance. That could free up Christie to emphasize his Mid-Atlantic style of politics while trimming on the pandering he’s traditionally done to the conservative base.

It’s hard to picture the people who are still staunch Republicans in the Trump Era suddenly learning to become pragmatists, however, and I’m skeptical that a moderate will win the nomination in 2024. I can more easily see Trump making a comeback, assuming he hasn’t been impeached and convicted to preclude that possibility.

If Trump loses narrowly, I’m not sure any lessons will be learned other than the nominee should have more practical experience. But if it looks like the country has tilted so far to the left that only an Eisenhower type of candidate has any chance, we could see a quicker learning curve.

The Democrats didn’t take the warning from 1968 seriously and didn’t quickly adapt to the rising power of the Conservative Movement. I don’t expect the Republican Party to do better. But, as 2016 showed us, the people have more say than the party leaders. I can see a situation where the leadership concludes that they need a non-conservative standard bearer to have any chance, but the voters prefer Louie Gohmert.

My guess is that Chris Christie is too optimistic about his chances. He thinks people like him more than they do, and it’s probably not likely that the party would nominate someone like him four years from now.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com