Astonishingly, people are already writing off Chris Christie as the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, treating him as irrevocably damaged goods. That's not only wildly unrealistic, it's naive. Politics ain't a sprint; it's a marathon. The race to the primary hasn't even started, much less eliminated any contenders. Here are five reasons Christie will be the nominee.
1. Scale: As petty and mean-spirited as that little traffic stunt was, in the grand scheme of things, Christie's alleged "crime" was small potatoes. After all, it's not as if he had been implicated in a lurid sex scandal, or had been caught snorting cocaine, or had been accused of embezzling government funds. He more or less pranked a city mayor.
Even if the Fort Lee accusations are true, even if he did in fact, New Jersey-style, order political payback rained down upon an enemy, most people are cynical enough to think that kind of stuff happens all the time in politics. In fact, it could actually help him. People could take the view that this kind of ruthless, unambiguous decision-making is exactly what we need more of.
2. Memory: When it comes to minor stuff, people tend to forget. Unless you're Charles Manson or Bernie Madoff, most of us are going to forget what you did. Too many new and outrageous things are going to happen between now and the primaries -- too much weird news is going to be shown on television -- to allow us to cling to the vague image of a traffic jam on some New Jersey bridge.
We've simply got too much time to kill between now and then. We've barely broken ground in the year 2014. The presidential general election isn't until November of 2016, more than two-and-a-half years a way. Even the primaries are still very far away. Unless this traffic jam/retribution story festers into something far, far worse (which, admittedly, is possible), it's going to amount to little more than a footnote attached to Christie's career.
3. Recognition: There is no one on the horizon to challenge him. Who's going to take him on? Rand Paul? Tim Pawlenty? Mitch Daniels? Mike Huckabee? Jeb Bush? None of those guys have anywhere near the name recognition or national profile Christie does. How many people would even recognize a photograph of Pawlenty or Jeb Bush? On the other hand, how many would recognize a photo of Christie? He's already way ahead of the pack... no matter who's in the pack.
4. Moderation: Because he is non-evangelical and non-ideologically obsessed, he'll attract party moderates who've seen too many Republicans get "primaried," where a Tea Party extremist takes down an incumbent Republican in the primary, only to get beaten by a Democrat in the general election. Many feel that if Christie wins the nomination, he could even appeal to conservative Democrats.
As reported in Double Down, by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, the Republicans practically begged Christie to throw his hat in the ring in 2012, believing him to be a far more attractive candidate than Mitt Romney. Delegation after delegation traveled to Trenton, hat in hand, trying to convince a very reluctant Governor Christie to seek the nomination. In the end, Christie decided this wasn't his time. But if, as expected, he makes his move in 2016, there will be tons of campaign money awaiting him.
5. Weight: Instead of working against him, being a fat man will work in Christie's favor. People are sick to death of the polished, synthetic politician, the product of a dozen focus-groups and a thousand seminars, who looks, sounds and acts like an insurance salesman. People crave someone "authentic." Yes, Christie qualifies as "morbidly obese." So be it. The Republican Party already saw what a trim, well-groomed, and terminally bland candidate did in 2012. No, thank you.
David Macaray, an LA playwright and author ("It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor," 2nd edition), is a former union rep.
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