Assessing Christie’s Presidential Candidacy Ahead of First GOP Debate

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

Chris Christie appeared on stage last night with many of his rivals at a forum in New Hampshire in advance of Thursday’s debate. After a month as a declared candidate, he’s still having trouble getting traction.

“You’ve got 16, 17 candidates in the race, a number of whom have had national reputations, or at least regional reputations more than he has,” said Carl Golden.

Former press secretary Golden sees Christie as somewhat subsumed.

“It’s very difficult for any of them to break out of the pack. When you have a situation where Donald Trump is leading with 25, 26 percent or whatever over people like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, it gives you the impression that this thing is so unsettled and so volatile that who breaks out of the pack today will be back in the pack by tomorrow,” Golden said.

When asked if it’s good for Christie that things are unsettled, Golden said, “If you’re in this thing, there’s a pathway to the nomination. Some obviously more difficult than others. But because it is so unsettled, the Iowa Caucus is six months, seven months, whatever it is, New Hampshire is seven months away. There’s ample time.”

Former Christie cabinet officer Tom Considine says the governor’s facing a twofold challenge. “The key is a straight-talking candidate, that’s how he puts himself out there. And then you have Donald Trump comes in and says all these bombastic things that’s a natural attraction to some Christie voters. That coupled with John Kasich who comes in as a sitting Ohio governor with experience who’s balanced the budget, sat on the Armed Services Committee in Congress and also is a straight-talking governor with a record of accomplishment in the swing state of Ohio. So that combination has hurt the governor a little bit,” he said.

When asked if Trump has overshadowed Christie, Considine said, “He has, to say it minimally. Now I think at the end of the day, the governor will be a beneficiary when Trump either collapses or leaves the race.”

Paul Brubaker who observes politics for his podcast The Backgrounder, says he’s surprised to see Christie struggling. “It certainly is a surprise to see him in the nailbiter position that he’s in right now given his media pedigree. And let’s not forget that while this might be the event of the political season, Thursday night, it’s very much about television. And given the places that Christie has been before — this is a man who was on the cover of Time Magazine, somebody who ate a doughnut next to David Letterman at his desk and was on Weekend Update on SNL — he certainly has that media pedigree so it’s an awfully crazy thing to kind of think of this debate happening given the television event that it is without Chris Christie,” he said.

And if he does make the debate?

“It’s gonna be difficult with 10 people, three questioners, 90 minutes. It’s gonna be very, very difficult to create your own niche in that atmosphere,” Golden said.

“I think he’s going to not get into a fight with Donald Trump. I think he wants to come across as presidential, straight talking and I think he’s going to try and be very substantive. I think he’s going to put himself out there as the substantive candidate,” Considine said.