As Governor Chris Christie took the stage beside businessman Donald Trump on Super Tuesday, the Twittersphere exploded with comments that said it appeared as though the former presidential candidate was being held “hostage” by the Republican presidential frontrunner. Now, after Christie’s Trump endorsement last week, there are calls for the governor to step down and Christie’s poll numbers are plummeting (he now sits at just 27 percent approval in his home state according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll.)
That’s not exactly the reaction you’d normally expect to hear about a sitting governor who had aligned himself with the winner of seven Super Tuesday states. Especially not when that Governor was once touted as the future of the GOP and won reelection by a landslide in his home state.
And yet, Governor Christie’s Super Tuesday appearance was just one more hit to his reputation after the many that he has faced since leaving the presidential race last month. After his own race struggled to ever get off the ground and Christie was forced to withdraw after a barely there showing during the New Hampshire primary, Christie was left scrambling and jumped from the establishment ship to back Trump.
Initially, Donald Trump’s candidacy was viewed as little more than a passing fad by the establishment. They thought it would eventually be extinguished and that voters would grow tired with the often-outrageous statements that came to define the campaign. That burnout never happened. Now, as Trump continues to blaze through primaries, it is more and more likely that he will become the Republican nominee, something that Chris Christie is no doubt hoping to cash in on.
So why all the Christie hate?
During his own presidential campaign, Christie often blasted Trump’s presidential run on the grounds that the businessman was too inexperienced and too theatrical to pursue the office of the president. Even so, the move made sense on the surface. Christie had become too much of an enemy to Florida Senator Marco Rubio to back him and the only other establishment candidate left in the race, Ohio Governor John Kasich, was barely registering.
But, other than a few Republican officials in New Jersey who decided to back the Governor, members of the Republican Party decided not to join Christie in his Trump endorsement. Instead, he was crucified for it.
Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard and Christie’s campaign finance co-chair, slammed Christie following the endorsement and called on her fellow former backers to not follow suit with the governor. She called Trump a “dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears” and Christie’s endorsement of him “an astonishing display of political opportunism.”
Former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman also chimed in, saying she would rather vote for Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton than Trump, despite the fact that she is a Republican. Republican Assemblyman and possible 2017 New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli also suggested that, if Christie continues to campaign heavily for Trump out of state, it might be prudent for the governor to step down from his post.
A large, conservative paper in New Hampshire, The New Hampshire Union Leader, had endorsed Christie for president in November. When he decided to align himself with Trump, they issued a scathing editorial saying they were wrong.
In that editorial, publisher John McQuaid summed up why many Republicans have taken personal offense to Christie’s endorsement.
McQuaid wrote: “Watching Christie kiss the Donald’s ring this weekend — and make excuses for the man Christie himself had said was unfit for the presidency — demonstrated how wrong we were. Rather than standing up to the bully, Christie bent his knee. In doing so, he rejected the very principles of his campaign that attracted our support.”
In New Jersey, the media has also responded with extreme vitriol to Christie’s choice of presidential candidate. Citing his continued time out of state, six newspapers owned by Gannett issued a call for the governor to step down (Asbury Park Press, Bridgewater Courier-News, the Cherry Hill Courier-Post, East Brunswick Home News Tribune, Vineland Daily Journal, and the Morristown Daily Record.).
The editorial read: “We’re fed up with Gov. Chris Christie’s arrogance. We’re fed up with his opportunism. We’re fed up with his hypocrisy. We’re fed up with his sarcasm. We’re fed up with his long neglect of the state to pursue his own selfish agenda.”
Democrats in New Jersey are also chiming in. Chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee John Currie issued a statement saying, “For the last two years, if not longer, it has been abundantly clear that Chris Christie is a shameless, opportunistic bully with no core convictions and no respect for the people of New Jersey.”
Another thing that isn’t helping is the way that Trump and Christie project their relationship during public appearances. After Christie’s Friday endorsement of Trump, the businessman was heard telling the Governor to “get on the plane and go home.” There is also the now-infamous Super Tuesday appearance in Florida. His gaze, in fact, got so popular that the Governor was trending on Twitter and pictures from that night became a meme, questioning if Christie was regretting his choice of endorsement.
Christie was also criticized after an interview on Sunday with ABC’s George Stephanopolous where it seemed as though he had little justification for his Trump endorsement. During that interview, Stephanopoulous brought up tidbits from Christie’s own campaign speeches where he questioned Trump on matters like Social Security and the proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Christie had no answer to how those questions had been resolved enough in his mind to warrant an endorsement. Christie even said that he and Trump “were not going to agree on every issue.”
Despite the backlash and the jokes made at his expense, Christie does not seem to be backing down from his Trump endorsement. With his popularity so low, it seems that the best chance he might have for securing his political future is sticking by Trump until the bitter end. If Trump wins, it might pay off. If he doesn’t, expect Christie’s last year in office to be filled with significant criticism from both sides of the aisle.