VP Pick 2016: The Weird Timing of Samson’s Guilty Plea

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a NH town hall.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a NH town hall.

A putrid colored sky hung over Newark as former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey boss David Samson prepared to issue a guilty plea for his role in the repercussions of a political piece of street theater otherwise known as Bridgegate, while his one-time confidant stood in the docket of a very different kind of court, where Donald Trump, not U.S. District Judge Jose Linares, stood poised to read the verdict.

Allegedly hamstrung by trying to exert influence to secure a special United Airlines flight path for himself while he served as chairman of the Port, Samson is not expected to cooperate with the government. But the image of the former chief of Gov. Chris Christie’s transition team eating a guilty plea in a corruption case clashes with that of Christie standing firmly at attention apparently in hopes of Trump selecting him as that fierce law and order guy with the hard edges of a tested prosecutor intent on serving as the Republican ticket’s number to guy.

Trump has said in published reports this week that he intends to announce his running mate tomorrow. CNN reported that the billionaire real estate tycoon has affection for the combative Christie, a former U.S. Attorney.

But the trappings of Bridgegate helped sink Christie to a point where the stubborn second term governor had the highest negatives among any of those 18 other Republican candidates all likewise bested in the end by Trump in the GOP Primary. Regardless of what happens today with Samson, will his appearance simply dredge up the worst kind of publicity for Christie as the hourglass drains on Trump’s time line?

One can certainly make the case that short of Samson fingering Christie, nothing new can arise and as such nothing new can dent the governor as he attempts to project his best Dating Game face alongside those stools designated for Indiana Governor Mike Pence and former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

One, moreover, can note the irregularity in Pence as the VP choice when considering the fact that he’s up for reelection as governor in November. That’s a tight race, too. He’s up by four and within the margin of error. If he joins the Trump ticket, how can Pence avoid the appearance of running from his reelection battle? As for Gingrich – he enters the short-list contest with Christie and Pence encumbered by that weighty history with the Clintons that ultimately makes him a denizen of the same historical lagoon, with nothing in the way of new energy or personal history autonomy one might associate with a red snapper option.

In that atmosphere, even Samson shambling up the courthouse steps appears to do little to change the dynamics of Christie’s chances. The beast is out of the basement, the damage done. Certainly the hardest eyed operatives would make the case for either Pence or Gingrich and against the New Jersey governor, armed with the knowledge that those Christie negatives – confirmed by how fast he sank in New Hampshire once Marco Rubio dredged his record – present a deadly rail for Trump’s candidacy.

Better to try to tap Pence first, Gingrich second and someone out of the loop third before going to Christie, simply based on the negatives.

And yet again, Trump had that front row seat on Christie’s public annihilation of Rubio in that New Hampshire debate, and according to news reports, feels gut-level comfort with the foxhole proximity of a scorched earth political animal like his former prez rival from New Jersey, and an instinctive attraction, reportedly, to the relentless intangibles of Christie.

Still, anyone on the team opposed to the governor could point to dreary Newark today and the activities of the U.S. Attorney’s Office as exhibit A in how, at the very least, once a powerful member of Christie’s team went – in the span of Christie’s Administration – from ally of the hunter to hobbled casualty of the hunted.