Governor Chris Christie saw his chance at becoming Donald Trump’s running mate go down in smoke last week as the presumptive Republican nominee chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence instead. Christie’s high-profile early endorsement of Trump seemed like a last-ditch bid for the nod, but experts are saying that Christie’s fortunes will still be tied to the former reality star despite the snub.
Christie was, by some reports, not pleased.
With his term up in 2018, Christie’s political future could depend on whether Trump can maintain neck-and-neck leads with Hillary Clinton in crucial swing state like Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. Failing a victory for the real estate magnate, his prospects in the public sector could be dim.
Seton Hall University political science professor Matt Hale said that Christie has an outside chance of becoming Trump’s Attorney General, but predicted an uphill battle in the Senate during confirmation hearings. David Samson, a close confidant of the governor and the former chair of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, pled guilty to bribery charges last week.
Hale said that development, and the long shadow of the Bridgegate scandal, could make Chief of Staff the more attractive option for a Trump administration that wants smooth sailing in its earliest weeks.
“He’s good at saying no to people, he’s good at controlling information, he’s good at staying on-message. And all of those are things that are the responsibility of a chief of staff,” Hale said, adding that Samson’s guilty plea could keep the governor out of the cabinet.
“I do think that having his political mentor plead guilty to bribery charges will make that more difficult.
“One of the things about a new administration is that they don’t want to get side-tracked on something at the very beginning of their administration. And Attorney General is something that has to be confirmed right away,” Hale continued. “There is a potential that Democrats will fight a Chris Christie nomination for Attorney General.”
Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray agreed with that assessment, saying that Christie and Trump would likely continue to share the same stages in the event of a Republican victory in November.
“He’s going to want to bring Christie down to Washington with him. The question is in what capacity,” Murray said. “I think he’d run into some problems with Senate confirmation though.”
Murray said Christie would be well suited for tailoring a chief of staff role to his own talents.
“While that is considered a workhorse, low-profile position, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Christie could certainly delegate a lot of those responsibilities to other people while he glad-hands.”
The Trump endorsement has drawn fire from several Republicans in swing districts back home, and that early and enthusiastic support for a candidate so divisive within the party could prove harmful in the long term. If Clinton comes out the winner, Murray said, Christie will have to spend a long time recuperating.
“He put all his eggs in one basket, and we’re going to see Republicans fleeing from any association with Trump as quickly as possible,” Murray said of a potential Clinton win. “He would take a long time to recover from that.”
The outcome of the race, he said, will depend on which way midwestern swing states go in the general.
“The race is definitely competitive, but the race is going to come down to rust-belt states. No question about it,” he said. “States like Colorado and Nevada, and New Mexico out west will be solidly for Clinton.
“It’s Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa that are probably going to be where this battle is won out.”
On Monday, the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Christie drew a line in the sand for any doubters in the GOP.
“If you’re not working for Donald Trump, you’re working for Hillary,” Christie said. “That’s the bottom line.”