So we’re getting closer to tonight’s Republican Presidential Debate on CNN, and our Governor, Chris Christie, will compete to break out of what to date has been a dismal single-digit performance.
Here’s how he has to handle each of his fellow combatants…
Rand Paul. Careful. Careful. He bloodied the diminutive Kentuckian in the last debate and looked like a bully. Paul is twisting in the polls. The best Christie can do with him is be genteel.
Donald Trump. Obviously everyone is going to try to land the best elbow on the front-runner. The entire debate, in fact, will look like a Marx Brothers movie of everyone piling into The Donald’s space to take a crack at him. Christie has to land the most memorable blow on Trump. He can slap anyone else onstage tonight but if he fails to jab Trump his attacks will all be for naught. If Trump thrashes around, Christie could provoke a standing ovation by declaring, “Sit down and shut up.”
Carly Fiorina. Stay away from her. Let Trump get his horns locked with the former business executive from California. Let Carly do some damage and then go in and finish him off, just like that scene in King Arthur where Clive Owen in the title role takes out the barbarian general after Tristan takes a piece out of him.
Jeb Bush. Everyone’s talking about it. Everyone’s writing about it. In order to prevent his donor base from packing up and going home, the former Florida Governor will be in mojo rehabilitation mode. It’s a tough role for Jeb, who essentially has to put on the Stetson hat without reminding people that he’s the younger brother of cowboy W. Christie has to gently deflate Bush, reminding people that he, a scrappy factory worker’s son – and not the son and brother of former presidents – is the best guard dog of establishment money.
Scott Walker. The Wisconsin Governor is dangling. Message to Christie: Don’t kick. Let those self-afflicted rivals flame out on their own lest you look like a bully avoiding the real target.
Marco Rubio. Just this past weekend on Meet the Press, Christie again slapped at those Republicans who serve in the senate, with the back of his forearm essentially disregarding all those nabobs of legislative temperament who don’t know a damn thing about executive leadership. Christie can keep that narrative going if need be, just to remind people – if Rubio, Paul and Cruz threaten to climb out of their respective boxes – why the country cannot afford another ethereal egghead.
Ted Cruz. See above.
Mike Huckabee. Be cautious. He’s dangerous. Remember, the former Arkansas governor has every bit the populist profile Christie possesses, but with a Southern twist. The latter is advantageous in a GOP Primary. Could be the most dangerous match-up onstage for Christie. Exercise extreme caution.
Ben Carson. Running in second place, the tranquil medical doctor is too distinct a character from Trump to make him a target without simultaneously diluting an attack on the clear-cut front-runner. There’s no need to go after Carson now. In the inimitable words of Steppenwolf: “Fire all of your guns at once now” at the front-runner, not the race’s resident second banana.