Despite endorsements from influential papers like the Boston Herald and New Hampshire’s Union Leader, Governor Chris Christie’s presidential campaign seems to be stalling. In the case of one of his chief rivals at least he has tried to emphasize his executive background as a key contrast point, but so far, failed to differentiate himself from the field of establishment candidates (which includes Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush). What makes his run look all the more dismal is the fact that the establishment candidates in the field are all being dwarfed by the likes of businessman Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, both of whom bring an anti-establishment approach to their campaigns.
With the amount of time Governor Christie has recently spent out of state, many in New Jersey are growing more and more bitter over his absence, something that some are claiming has led to a growing number of issues in the state. In the face of this environment—and as he faces the prospect of coming home if New Hampshire doesn’t pan out in his favor—PolitickerNJ explored what the next steps might be for Christie after his likely departure from the presidential race.
1. Come home… and prepare for a 2020 presidential run. Perhaps the most obvious move for Christie is, in reality, not a move at all. His current term as Governor ends in 2018. He is likely to turn the reins of the state over to a Democrat due to growing discontent with Republicans in New Jersey. However, by the time the presidential contest is over, Christie’s term will be almost over, leaving him just a bit of time to improve upon his legacy in order to position himself for another presidential run in 2020 if Democrats take the White House in 2016. Christie would need to get the state’s unemployment on par with the rest of the U.S., fix the ongoing pension crisis and find a way to realistically fund the TTF in order to avoid the same fate and criticism that befell his campaign this time. That is a tall order for less than two years left in office.
Another problem here would be that Christie would have to find a way to stay relevant to the political world during the gap in his tenure as an elected official, something that has proven crippling to the likes of Bush, who hasn’t held office since 2007.
If the path to the White House doesn’t work out, Christie would also have the option of doing what so many former governors do and leave aspirations of elected office behind them. Since Christie is a trained attorney, he could go back to work in the legal field. Many former governors also enter consulting or lobbying, a path that would likely be full of opportunity for Christie.
2. Join Fox News. If Christie does decide to stick around in New Jersey to finish his term but there is a Republican in the White House when his term in New Jersey ends, the outspoken governor might try to make a move to TV. Christie’s reputation as a “tell it like it is” media magnet might make the job an attainable reality, especially if he is seeking to remain in the public eye in hopes of a future presidential run.
However, that move hasn’t always been successful for other candidates. Mike Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucus, hosted Huckabee on Fox News from 2008 to 2015, but is barely registering poll numbers this race. Huckabee’s turn (not to mention the network’s failure to re-up Palin as a contributor in 2015) show that TV exposure doesn’t necessarily translate to public support. As a lover of the limelight, however, Christie might find himself exceptionally comfortable in front of the cameras. A Fox News host’s salary might also sweeten the deal for Christie, even if he can’t translate it to a future successful run at the presidency.
3. Try to become U.S. Attorney General. With President Obama at the end of his presidential tenure, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is also likely looking at the end of the road in Washington. The role of U.S. attorney General is one that Christie is adequately qualified for considering his time as the U.S. attorney for New Jersey.
The problem with Christie as a cabinet member, however, lies in his trademark combative nature. As the governor, he is the most powerful person in New Jersey. His time in the role has been characterized by a strong approach to both media and other elected officials that might not translate so well into having a direct superior to report back to. Christie’s propensity toward the explosive might make him a liability as an attorney general. However, Christie’s turn as NJ Attorney is the role responsible for his rise to governor so, perhaps, a return to law would bode well for his career trajectory. If he could turn an attorney stint into a run for the highest office in New Jersey, maybe he could mirror that with another presidential run from AG.
4. Become the nominee’s running mate. As of now, there seem to be no rumblings of Christie joining the eventual Republican nominee as their pick for Vice President. However, that possibility does have a precedent. In 2012, Christie was Mitt Romney’s first choice for the position that eventually went to Paul Ryan. This time, as big, far-right candidates dominate the Republican field Christie could actually provide a balance to a Republican ticket. Though he has lately gathered some criticism for “pandering” to the right on issues like guns, Christie was once seen as a moderate Republican. He was viewed so positively by Democrats in New Jersey that when he ran for reelection in 2013, he was able to score a whopping 60 endorsements from the opposite side of the aisle.
While Christie has distanced himself somewhat from that moderate path as he pursues the presidency, he might consider revisiting that past in order to achieve that running mate status. A moderate Republican would balance a ticket in the case of an ultra-conservative nominee. But, because both Christie and front-runner Trump are known for “bullying” and are both from the North East, it remains unknown if the two could successfully be paired. Christie has little chance of earning the VP nod with another establishment candidate.
5. Take a shot at another cabinet spot (besides AG). After his initial handling of Hurricane Sandy received widespread acclaim, it might have been possible for Christie to position himself as the Administrator of FEMA. His handling of this week’s winter storm, his frantic return to New Hampshire, his insult of North Wildwood Republican Mayor Patrick Rosenello and his subsequent apology for that insult have seemingly put an ax in the FEMA angle for Christie.
Christie could also take aim at becoming the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. His trajectory would be similar to former Secretary Janet Napolitano who filled the role from 2009 to 2013. Napolitano was a state Attorney General and a former Governor in her home state of Arizona.