In 2015, I predicted wrongly about a number of significant developments in the 2016 presidential race.
Specifically, I failed to foresee the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the collapse of the Jeb Bush and Scott Walker candidacies, and the survival of Hillary Clinton, who I thought would be sidelined by the burgeoning scandals of emails, Benghazi, and the Clinton Foundation.
So given my failed predictions in 2015, I am much more guarded in my prognostications for 2016. I will make the following observation, however, regarding the presidential candidacy of Chris Christie as we enter the New Year: A Christie 2016 presidential nomination by the GOP would constitute an historic first. It would be the first time in modern American political history that a major political party would nominate for president a sitting governor with a record of failure and high unpopularity in his home state.
As proof of this proposition, let’s look at the records of all sitting governors nominated by either the Democrats or Republicans since the end of World War II:
FOR THE DEMOCRATS: Adlai Stevenson, 1952; Jimmy Carter, 1976; Michael Dukakis, 1988; Bill Clinton, 1992.
FOR THE REPUBLICANS: Thomas E. Dewey, 1948; Ronald Reagan, 1980; George W. Bush, 2000.
All these governors were very successful state chief executives, with a high degree of popularity and political success in their home states.
Now let us compare the Christie record with that of the aforesaid governors.
The following is a summary in brief of Christie’s gubernatorial tenure: Under Christie, the Transportation Trust Fund is basically insolvent, the pension fund is unable to meet future obligations, the rate of job creation trails virtually that of all the rest of the states of the nation, the state’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times, and property taxes are more out of control than ever.
This is a record that Hillary Clinton would love to run against.
As for Christie’s popularity and political stature in New Jersey, the National Journal’s Hotline reports that of the 14 states with gubernatorial contests in 2016 and 2017, New Jersey’s governor’s office is the most likely in the country to flip party control.
Specifically, the Hotline states: “The only obvious pickup [for Democrats] over the next two years is in New Jersey in 2017 thanks to term-limited Chris Christie’s tanking popularity post-Bridgegate … Nearly half a dozen Democrats are lining up to run for the seat, but there aren’t any strong GOP candidates on the horizon, especially not any that could run in a way that separates them from Christie.”
So a Chris Christie presidential nomination, given his record of gubernatorial failure and home state unpopularity would be unique in modern American political history. It would be the political equivalent of water running uphill.
There are two other factors that stand as obstacles to a Christie GOP presidential nomination.
The first is his thorough incompetence on foreign policy issues. This can all be summed up in his following statement in an interview on Fox:
“I’m not prepared to allow Russia to try to bring Communist domination back to the world.”
Even a fifth grade elementary school history student knows how ludicrous this statement is.
The forthcoming Bridgegate trials constitute a second set of obstacles for Christie. While they may not provide evidence of his personal involvement in the scandal, it will become clear that he was derelict in the management of his own front office.
Yet I would not count Christie out in terms of the GOP presidential nomination. He is a failure as an elected public official, but a remarkable success as a political performer.
A perfect example is Christie’s assertion that he has expertise on terrorism gained from his service as U.S. Attorney. Articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Star-Ledger have proven how ludicrous and spurious this claim is. Yet when one listens to Christie, he is so persuasive that one can almost believe his distortions.
Furthermore, Christie’s style has won him acolytes and sycophants in the media, especially among those impressed with superficialities. They have been seen to be seized with paroxysms of joy when Christie would climb from 3 to 4 percent nationally.
My instincts, which are not always accurate, tell me that Christie has nowhere to go after New Hampshire, even if he finishes as high as second.
I hope not. There is no presidential candidate in 2016 who I believe would be more inclined to commit abuses of power in the Oval Office than Chris Christie.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.