Is the Christie campaign now a corpus?

The Republicans’ best shot at the White House in 2016 just got stuck in traffic.

Some political reporters have been parsing poll questions about whether Conegate makes people think better or worse of Gov. Soprano, and Christie’s cheerleaders are rejoicing over the results. I never know how to read those answers; it matters too much whether the X% who say they think better or worse of someone due to Y were previously for him, previously against him, or previously undecided, and the crosstab cell sizes are usually too small to say anything about that.

But this only matters because Christie was getting set for a Presidential run, and because Christie - and only Christie, in all the polls I’ve seen - was close to HRC in 2016 trial heats. In the CNN poll from December, for example, he was two points up, 48-46, with Paul Ryan down 52-44 and all the others were down by 13-21 points: e.g., Hillary 58, Jeb 37. (Quinnipiac also showed Christed doing best, though with the others not as far back.)

So: Here’s the latest from the Marist poll:

If Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie were to face off in the 2016 presidential election, Clinton would defeat Christie by double digits. Half of registered voters — 50% — would support Clinton compared with 37% for Christie. 12% are undecided. When Marist last reported this question in December, voters divided. 48% supported Clinton while 45% were behind Christie. Seven percent, at that time, were undecided.

And that, as they used to say back when newspaper copy was typed, is a

- 30 -

End of story.

Of course I still hope the cover-up breaks down, just to make Christie’s defenders look as stupid and unprincipled as they are. But in terms of Presidential politics, I’m not sure it matters. It looks to me as if the Republicans’ best chance to retake the White House in 2016 just got stuck in traffic.

Update Ooops! Ed Kilgore had this first. The way I look at it, if I’m only half a day behind Kilgore in political analysis, I’m doing OK.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

42 thoughts on “Is the Christie campaign now a corpus?”

  1. I’d say his campaign was dead long before this, at the very least in the sense McCain and Dole’s campaigns were dead at the same point: While the party establishment might have enough leverage to give him the nomination, getting the nomination of a party whose activist base hates your guts is not a recipe for prevailing in the general election. The most Christie has the potential to do is get in the way of somebody who could win, and that has been the case for a long while.

    Sadly, the GOP establishment would consider that victory enough, if the somebody who could win was not their creature.

    1. This may well be true. It means serious problems for the Party in Presidential elections, because the “establishment” tends to pick people who have a prayer of winning the general. The people “the Base” picks would lose in landslides. Mitt lost by 5 points. Santorum or Herman Cain or whoever would’ve been utterly crushed. I know you don’t believe this. Like most true believers, you actually think a more extreme (pure) candidate is the key to success. It is not. Goldwater got crushed. The base is good at changing the conversation (aka moving the Overton Window). I hate this, of course, but I recognize the fact. The result is that “moderate” candidates are, on some issues (basically, economics/taxation/spending issues), yesterday’s radicals. This is not universally true - the base has certainly failed in other areas (the battle against Gay Marriage is obviously lost, for example).

      The above applies to Presidential elections and to a lesser extent Senatorial (is that a word?) elections. Not House Reps. There, in the right districts, The Base can have what it wants and still win. To my dismay, of course, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

      1. They’d lose by a landslide like Dole and McCain? Oh, wait, those were establishment candidates…

        1. To be fair to Senators Dole and McCain, 1996 and 2008 would have been difficult elections for any GOP nominee. Do you suppose that Huckabee would have done much better than McCain?

        2. I’d have loooooooooooooooved it if Santorum (for example) had run in ’08; we’d have probably gotten some more Senate seats, and a bigger majority in the House. We could have gotten more done in the first two years.

        3. Sound defeats, but I didn’t see them as landslides. Maybe the ’84 election is skewing my definition of landslide.

          And the answer to your question is yes. Those guys were the best national candidates in the primaries for those years. The candidates you prefer are even less popular, mostly because they say right out loud what the smarter guys try to hide (which is why Romney’s 47% comment came out via a smuggled video, not in a debate or something).

          1. But Romney wasn’t my guy, either. Romney was the liberal Republican governor of Massachusetts, who decided he was a conservative when he wanted to run for President. Romney was the establishment GOP candidate in 2012.

        4. No. Not like McCain (53-46) and Dole (49-41).

          More like Goldwater (61-38), McGovern (61-38), and Mondale (59-41).

    2. Does the base really hate Christie’s guts? I get that treating the President like a human being kind of pissed the base off, and I gather he once gave a job to a muslim, but are these really deal-breakers? He seethes with hatred and contempt for liberals in general and unions in particular. When you get right down to it, isn’t that enough? Is bigotry absolutely required as well?

        1. How crazy is it to suppose that his full-throated defense of a muslim supreme court nominee did him a lot of harm with the sort of people who freaked out over the “ground zero mosque”? Not so crazy that you’re willing to confront the suggestion head-on, I notice.

  2. I think it is best, in this day and age, to consider the media as generally merely additional power players, corrupted by the money power and fully in cahoots with the political power. Many political articles and newscasts are best considered as shots in a propaganda war.

    With this in mind, I think the most relevant takeaway from this whole thing is that the Dems are scared out of their gourds by Christie 2016.

    1. Of course they are - hes the only guy who has shown in polling to be any match for Hillary.

      Now some of that is surely name recognition, and the kind of failing to rally behind a single guy that will not be an issue three years from now, but so far Christie is THE guy for Republicans. If he fails they are back to sqaure one.

      Now let me add - I think Bridgegate is meaningless in this thing in this context. Eventually it was going to come out that something like this had happened. Christie is a crooked bully operating in a corrupt state. His brusk, bull in a china shop way was likely to turn off the national electorate eventually (eve without scandal, but especially, obviously with them) - so ultimately its probably good for Republicans that it happened now, instead of say, in February 2016, when it was too late to stop his momentum.

      Its really good for both parties. Democrats now have one less realistic threat (on the off chance he managed to rein it in enough to really appeal nationally after being under the microscope for 3 years)< and Republicans now have ample time to settle on someone else and build them up to be a legit contender.

      1. I’m not aware of any Dems being scared out of their gourds.

        My reading of the polls being unaffected by the scandal is that folks have already felt The Christie in their gut and can tell he’s an a-hole, albeit one some can live with. I think it was some time ago that people could tell he was a bully, and I doubt many women will vote for him.

        I would like him to be able to stick around and take some oxygen out of the room. That would work very well.

        1. I’m certainly scared out of my gourd by the thought of a somewhat smarter George W. Bush, advised by Rove, with a taste for putting his political opponents in SuperMax prisons, backed by one or more hard Radical Right billionaires, sitting in the Oval Office managing not only the organs of state security but our foreign policy and military forces. Yeah, that scares me.


    2. It only makes sense for Democrats to fear Christie 2016 if he has a chance of getting the nomination, otherwise he’ll never get a chance to face Clinton or any other Democrat.

      Right now Christie is polling dead last among Iowa Republicans. Behind Rick Perry. Rick Perry.

      1. Who won the Iowa primary in 2012? 2008?

        The only primary that matters is Florida. Its early, its big, its diverse, its conservative, but not so much so that its meaningless.

        1. Iowa doesn’t have primaries, it has caucuses, which tend to be more responsive to the base, followed by district and state conventions. And yes, they have picked losers. But if Christie were enough of a threat to be worth being scared of, never mind inevitable, you’d think he wouldn’t poll dead last.

          1. If by “base,” you mean the primary voters, then primaries are more responsive to the base. Caucuses are more responsive to the more activist elements within the base, which tend to be more extreme in both parties.

        2. Who won the Iowa primary in 2012?

          Romney and Santorum were essentially tied.


          Obama and Huckabee. McCain finished fourth.

          In 2004 it was Kerry.

          In 2000 it was Bush and Gore.

          So the winner of the Iowa caucuses is actually a pretty good predictor of the eventual nominee. More importantly, you can’t get crushed. You can end up winning without Iowa but if Christie were really destined to finish last in Iowa, or even just in the single digits, it would be a sign to flee his campaign.

  3. I still hope the cover-up breaks down, just to make Christie’s defenders look as stupid and unprincipled as they are.

    Two thoughts on that:

    1. I don’t see how the coverup can hold. To this day, he claims to be ignorant of whether or not there’s a traffic study. There’s simply no way that a guy who isn’t engaged in a coverup remains ignorant on that question, and there are plenty of folks with an interest in dragging out the truth, including some who have subpoena power.
    2. I’d like to distinguish between “unprincipled” and “holding principles that are different from mine.” I find Christie and the Republicans scary precisely because mindless vengeance is something Republicans support on principle. Nobody has yet offered a plausible explanation for the Iraq War that doesn’t heavily implicate mindless vengeance. And look at the reaction in Congress to the idea of peace with Iran. That Fort Lee mayor had it coming, as did his constituents.

    Twain’s meditation on the Old Testament God comes to mind:

    He is always punishing—punishing trifling misdeeds with thousand-fold severity; punishing innocent children for the misdeeds of their parents; punishing unoffending populations for the misdeeds of their rulers; even descending to wreak bloody vengeance upon harmless calves and lambs and sheep and bullocks, as punishment for inconsequential trespasses committed by their proprietors.

    1. I agree
      1. The truth will come out.
      2. Barring criminal charges against Christie, this whole thing will only burnish Christie’s street cred with the GOP base. No Republican ever lost popularity with the party for kicking Democrats.

      1. The mechanism by which this hurts Christie isn’t the base getting turned off by the stunt. The way it hurts him is it turns his strength-his loutish demeanor-into a weakness. He was doomed the instant he got in front of that mic and said “I am not a bully” because now he has to either stop bullying people or look like an out-of-control clown when he does. Either way it hurts him.

        1. Agreed; it’s not the criminality, it’s getting caught, under embarrassing circumstances. And it looks like the Dem legislature in NJ knows how to play NJ politics. He’s thrown six high-level staffers under the bus, and at least one has publicly signalled that he’ll talk for immunity. Given that the NY DA and the US DA and the NJ Legislature have a vested interest in getting wide-ranging testimony in return (not just testimony about the closings), Christie’s rather exposed.

          1. = = = Given that the NY DA and the US DA and the NJ Legislature have a vested interest in getting wide-ranging testimony in return = = =

            Really? Not if the message sent was really about the land deal in which all the big-name NJ Democrats are fully involved. And the federal DAs, at least, have to consider the possibility that Christie could be President or at least Attorney General within 3 years and that he has a very long, vindictive, and vicious memory.


    2. Another possibility here is that the Cockroach Theory will apply. For every one you see, there are a hundred more you don’t.

      Christie may behiding a lot of cockroaches. There is already a claim, not proven yet, by the mayor of Hoboken that he threatened to withhold Sandy aid funds unless she supported a certain development project.

    1. I don’t believe the results. When you look at the party breakdown of support at the bottom of Page 21, they show Democratic respondents with a 100% favorable view of Christie. Really? I don’t believe it.

      A page or so down from that is a crosstab of party affiliation and change in the view of Christie. It shows Democrats essentially evenly split between “Higher” and “About the same”.

      I don’t know what’s going on, but I suspect there is a problem in the code. On the other hand, maybe it’s all correct. In that case, we should be seeing other polls shortly giving high D support to Christie.

  4. Sigh. I hate it when a good pun is missed… Corpus Christi?

    However, was this (Christed) intentional?

    (Quinnipiac also showed Christed doing best, though with the others not as far back.)

  5. I admit to be fascinated by the substance of Bridgegate. On the other hand, I think canoodling now about the effects of this on the 2016 elections is rank speculation, and opinion polls at this point barely worth the effort. On the substance, my current suspicion is that the key to the mess lies with the huge project due to go in at the end of, and dependent on, those bridge on-ramps. Somebody was sending some message to somebody related to that project with the lane closures, and sticking it to Democrats in Fort Lee was an incidental fringe benefit. However, both Christie and the mayor, along with the power structures in both parties, want the project to go through, and therefore are not eager for the spotlight to fall too brightly on it. Hence a very complicated stew of interests and agendas. We will see.

  6. Cranky Observer:

    “Really? Not if the message sent was really about the land deal in which all the big-name NJ Democrats are fully involved. And the federal DAs, at least, have to consider the possibility that Christie could be President or at least Attorney General within 3 years and that he has a very long, vindictive, and vicious memory.”

    The NJ DA’s are the weakest link, to be sure. However, federal DA’s are appointed by the President, and rarely reappointed when the White House switches parties.

    1. Barry is almost right on this. US Attorneys are Presidential appointees, and expect to leave office with a change of administration. Assistant US Attorneys-who actually prosecute the case-are not appointees, and often view themselves as lifers. The US Attorney is the boss, but the underlings might need an unusual amount of encouragement to stay zealous. Nobody thinks that a President Christie will respect the professionalism of the Assistant US Attorneys. On the third hand, many Assistant US Attorneys are trying to rack up big pelts to impress law firms. They might not worry about the wrath of a new administration.

    2. Just because there’re not currently active doesn’t mean that a President Christie couldn’t make their lives hell, or simply direct his AG to find something to prosecute them for. Siegleman comes to mind: Rove wanted him out of the way, so he’s in jail.


  7. Governor Christie has lost ten points in a few weeks in a hypothetical match-up against Hillary Clinton. If so many people can change their minds quickly, they can change back just as quickly. The next round of presidential elections are two years away. Polls are very unreliable at gauging election results two years later.

    Christie is a candidate who has some pronounced strengths and weaknesses. The bridge scandal revealed some of his weaknesses that might have been hidden from a national audience. He remains popular in New Jersey, with approval in the high fifties.

    Connecting with the GOP primary base was always going to be a challenge for Christie, and it remains so.

Comments are closed.