Chris Christie: Politically Marginalized and Subjected to Murphy for President Talk

Murphy and Christie

My fellow InsiderNJ columnist, Fred Snowflack, authored an excellent column on Monday, August 16 that was a rarity in journalistic accomplishment.  It achieved the objective of being both relevantly informative and highly entertaining.

In the column, “Christie Tees off on Murphy at Bucco Golf Outing,” Fred described a verbal eruption of former Governor Chris Christie regarding New Jersey incumbent Governor Phil Murphy.  In my view, the words of the former governor reflected a highly vitriolic tone.  If you do not believe me, read the column yourself:

I find it hard to understand why Chris Christie should feel any bitterness about anything in life.  He escaped with his life from the clutches of the Covid last October.  He has a wonderfully loving and attractive family, with highly accomplished children.  He is financially secure.  And ABC Television News has given him an excellent platform for expressing his views on their Sunday morning talk shows.

I can only suspect two causes for the apparent Christie bitterness.

The first is that Chris Christie is highly mistrusted nationally by both GOP Trumpists and anti-Trumpists and unwanted for leadership in the NJGOP, rendering him politically marginalized within the Republican Party.

The second is that he is well aware of the incipient discussion of the possibility of Phil Murphy as a presidential candidate in the year 2024, discussion which is likely to expand after the anticipated forthcoming Murphy landslide.  The Murphy presidential talk has to be humiliating to Christie, given the fact that he has thirsted with every fiber in his being to make 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue his domicile.

The Christie reputation for untrustworthiness among both pro-Trump and anti-Trump GOP voters is well earned.  Throughout the Trump administration, Christie reveled in his A-List invitee status on the Trump White House guest list.   He earned that with his obsequious loyalty to the Donald.

At the White House Rose Garden ceremony at the end of September announcing the presidential appointment of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court Justice, Christie strutted without wearing a mask, apparently believing in his own invulnerability to the Covid.

After contracting and recovering from the Coronavirus, Christie embarked on a mission to reinvent himself.  First, he proclaimed himself to be a chief advocate of the mask, which he had previously eschewed.  Next, he became a supporter of impeachment of Donald Trump, the same Donald of whom Chris had previously bellowed his eternal devotion and fealty.

If Chris Christie thought that he could become a leader of anti-Trump Republicans, he was deluding himself in the extreme.  The overwhelming majority of anti-Trump Republicans have pledged their affections and leadership loyalty to Liz Cheney, a figure with whom Chris Christie cannot hope to compete.

Accordingly, the political results of the Christie self- reinvention could not have been worse for him.  He became a figure of total untrustworthiness to both pro-Trump and anti-Trump Republicans.

And within Christie’s home state of New Jersey, where he once had been a highly popular governor, there has been no political solace for Him.  He left office with an approval rating of only 15 percent.   This abysmally low figure distinguished him as not only the most unpopular governor in modern New Jersey history but indeed of ANY state during the two decades prior to his departure from office.

Accordingly, Chris Christie was hardly sought out for either endorsements or a leadership role within the NJGOP.  Key Jersey Republican activists and local leaders could not forget the authoritarian-style suzerainty that Christie and his henchman, Bill Palatucci had exercised over the New Jersey Republican Party during his gubernatorial administration.

In short, the key New Jersey Republican personages who determine the leadership course of the party would look upon the return to preeminence of Christie-Palatucci NJGOP leadership with the same eagerness as a medical patient would regard a colonoscopy without anesthesia.

Despite the meltdown of his political fortunes, Chris Christie remains a figure of irrepressible ambition.  One cannot ever rule out a quixotic run for the presidency by Christie, with Bill Palatucci acting as Sancho Panza to Don Quixote Christie.

And on top of it all, Christie now has to endure the prospect of a landslide victor Phil Murphy being discussed as a possible nominee for a Democratic presidential ticket, either in 2024 or 2028.  Murphy just celebrated his 64th birthday, and in 2028, he will be 71, not too old in modern American politics for a presidential bid.

And the inevitable comparisons between Christie and Murphy will be particularly galling to the former governor.

The Christie political persona is that of a bullying baleful political Sonny Liston-like figure who has become a national object of ridicule after the widespread distribution of the famed photo memes of him in the beach chair.

By contrast, the Murphy political persona is one of dignified New Jersey Irish affability, an individual who has retained his sense of calm and self-respect in the face of increasingly vitriolic Jack Ciattarelli personal attacks.

The possibility of Phil Murphy becoming a presidential contender will depend upon a number of factors beyond his control. These include the Biden approval ratings and whether he seeks reelection, the present lack of political sure-footedness of Kamala Harris, and the political fortunes of Terry McAuliffe, a potential presidential contender who is likely to be elected again in November to his former job of Governor of Virginia.

What sounds to me like a future possible dream Democratic presidential ticket:  Phil Murphy-Val Demings, provided that Val defeats Marco Rubio next year in the race for his Florida US Senate seat.

And if Phil Murphy emerges in the future as a presidential candidate, the personal skill most essential to Chris Christie’s well-being will be anger management.

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission

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