I can’t say I’m surprised by the news, breaking now: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump today. Trump is so weird that it’s hard to see that he’s clearly the frontrunner and not so far from being the presumptive nominee. The bandwagon effect for people in Trump’s current position is real, particularly for politicians who want to buddy up to power.
It’s also a fit: Trump, for all of his battiness, positions himself as a moderate Republican on most issues outside of immigration. A lot of his core support in the primaries is found in blue states. Trump is basically an East Coast, Chris Christie-style Republican (and they’re similar dispositionally as well, as bully blowhard types). Socially moderate authoritarians……next up, Rudy Giuliani?
Christie said he had not been offered any position by Trump.
Christie continued to attack Marco Rubio, calling him “wholly unprepared to be president of the United States.” Yikes.
Trump repeatedly called Rubio “a lightweight,” saying “he doesn’t have the talent, he doesn’t have the temperament, he can never make us great.”
Trump is already dominant in New Jersey and I don’t think this is some kind of game changer. But it is big news, mostly in signalling the legitimacy of Trump’s candidacy. Trump is clearly the frontrunner, but Rubio and Ted Cruz are trying to take him down a notch by arguing that he’s a joke and a con man. It’s harder to make that argument if Trump starts getting a stamp of approval from major figures in the party. That stamp of approval doesn’t matter for Trump’s hardcore fans, but it does matter as he tries to add support and get closer to 50 percent in the GOP primaries.
Note that Rubio is currently accusing Trump of being a bed wetter and wearing too much makeup. In other words, he’s acting like Trump. Trump is going in the other direction, moving toward the mainstream. Now he has the backing of a major governor, arguably one of the bigger gets in terms of endorsements this cycle. Trump’s strategy at this point is an inevitability argument, which is hard to make if people think your’e a clown. The Christie endorsement helps him make the case to wobbly voters that his is a serious candidacy.
Newt Gingrich just told the Washington Post that the endorsement is a breakthrough moment for Trump and “the beginning of the end” for his rivals. “This Chris Christie endorsement of Trump is real signal to GOP establishment that they had better begin thinking about Trump as the future,” he tweeted.
Christie is also a very effective surrogate as an attack dog against Rubio, as we already saw in a previous debate. He went to work at just that during this press conference, giving some substantive heft to Trump’s insult comic routine. Christie is going to prosecute Trump’s case that Rubio is a lightweight who isn’t ready.
And while Christie didn’t have a huge national following, he probably helps Trump pick up moderate GOP voters in some key blue states. Again, a lot of this is about signalling legitimacy. There may be blue-state Republican voters who view Trump favorably but worry that he’s too out of the mainstream. Someone like Christie could help him change that equation (not just on the east coast, but in places like Florida and Ohio, where victories would probably lock up the nomination for Trump). Again, the blue states are already friendly territory for Trump — now he’s looking to run up the score.