Christie Says DeSantis Unknown; Polls Say Otherwise


As he continues on his rounds of media visits offering commentary and observations on the state of the Republican Party, former Gov. Chris Christie teases his own ambition while maintaining his unrelenting assault on his former best friend, Donald Trump.

His utterances concerning Trump aren’t particularly new or noteworthy, i.e., he’s egotistical, self-absorbed, detached from reality and will surely lose to President Biden or any Democrat in 2024.

He may have come to the realization, though, that his act is wearing a bit thin, his words just another eddy in the increasing stream of anti-Trump rhetoric from Republican establishment figures as well as the party’s reliable mega-donors desperately seeking an alternative to Trump.

How else to interpret his recent observation in an interview with the conservative media outlet The Dispatch that Florida Gov, Ron DeSantis — if, as expected, becomes a candidate for the presidential nomination —– may turn out to be less than advertised because “none of us really know who he is.”     Just who the “us” is in Christie’s remark wasn’t spelled out.

“None of us really know what he’ll be like on a national stage,” said the ex-governor whose 2016 candidacy collapsed after distant, single digit sixth place finishes in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

Even a cursory glance at polling — the only measurement the American public has thus far of candidate recognition — undercuts Christie’s theme of DeSantis anonymity.

According to the Real Clear Politics average of national polling organizations over the last month to six weeks, Trump is the consistent leader, averaging in the low to mid 40 percent range followed by DeSantis in the mid 20 percent and low 30 percent range.

None of the other potential candidates reaches double digits; not former vice president Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley — the only other announced candidate at the moment — not former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Others polled at one percent or less while Christie failed to make the cut.

While polling a year before campaigning begins in earnest should not be accepted as predictive of the eventual outcome, DeSantis’ consistency over time has positioned him as the most likely to seriously challenge Trump.

His strength at this early stage also indicates that Christie’s description of him as someone “nobody really knows outside of Tallahassee” is a rhetorical overreach, a transparent effort to portray him as someone  who will wilt under the intense scrutiny focused on anyone who seeks the nomination.

Ever since his re-election last year — a victory margin of just under 20 percent, the largest of any Republican there in modern history — DeSantis has drawn national media attention as clearly evidenced by his polling strength.

Trump understands the threat the governor poses and has stepped up dramatically his unique combination of insults and policy differences with him, another clear sign that, contrary to Christie’s assessment, DeSantis has established himself as someone already known “outside of Tallahassee.”

DeSantis unrelenting assault on the so-called “woke” philosophy of government has drawn significant criticism and he has shown an eagerness to engage in the culture war over topics ranging from curriculum in the public schools, to education to public health mandates to climate change, gun control and curtailing the Internal Revenue Service.

He even picked a fight with Mickey Mouse.

Who does that?

All will resonate among the conservatives who hold sway in the Republican Party but whether they will appeal to the broader electorate or be rejected as too extreme will only be settled if DeSantis becomes a candidate.

Christie’s cautionary warning that DeSantis’ performance on the national stage is unknown is a valid point, but based on his record so far, it is highly unlikely the governor will back down from his positions or soften them.

To be sure, many a candidate has imploded on the debate stage; one need look no further than the Republican 2016 primary season which left the shards of more than one shattered dream on the floor, including Christie’s, — and, if he’s correct—DeSantis will join them.

While Christie continues to ponder his own candidacy and suggests he’ll reach a decision in a matter of months, there is a certain whistling past the graveyard flavor to his assertion that he is not concerned with what DeSantis intends to do.

When a potential candidate for any office bravely declares that a decision on a candidacy does not depend on the action someone else takes, it is designed more to demonstrate independence of thought rather than a sober assessment of the impact on one’s own plans.

Christie’s critique of DeSantis may have been more impactful had it not been in the context of his own possible candidacy.  A bit of credibility is lost through an expression of self-interest — no matter how veiled — rather than the voice of an objective outside party whose hand is not grasping firmly the handle of an axe to grind.

Florida is the third most populous state in the nation — just under 22 million — and, as its elected leader, DeSantis occupies a national platform, the popular attention and the reckoning that goes with it.

By 2024, Christie will have been out of public office for six years and his record of achievement has already faded into the mists of history.

The ghost of his 2016 effort —  though a long shot at best — hasn’t vanished and another run eight years later is likely a hill too steep to climb.

If fate produces a Trump versus DeSantis contest, Christie’s assessment of the Florida governor as untried, untested and unknown in the overheated cauldron of national pressure will be validated or be quickly forgotten as just another unproven theory in a business with more than its share of them.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University.

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4 responses to “Christie Says DeSantis Unknown; Polls Say Otherwise”

  1. Chris Christe people are flocking to Florida , people weren’t flocking to NJ when you were governor. I and a lot of US residents pray you will go away.

  2. Christie is absolutely DELUSIONAL! Governor DeSantis would bury him in a presidential primary! I got sad news for Christie, people around the country DO know who Ron DeSantis is. That’s why people are FLEEING from New Jersey and moving to the “Sunshine” freedom state! Christie’s remarks are LAUGHABLE! Governor Ron DeSantis is regarded as the BEST Governor in the U.S.!

  3. The Great Bloviator, Chris Christie, is still looking for his 15 minutes of fame. He is nothing but a know-nothing blowhard with a loud mouth. He likes to denigrate people and call them names, but he’s actually projecting what he really is. His usual RINO mantra says Trump is “egotistical, self-absorbed, detached from reality and will surely lose to President Biden or any Democrat in 2024”. Sounds a lot like what Christie is himself.

    The former Governor misused his office for personal gain, e.g., GW Bridgegate, Island Beach State Park debacle as the only family on the beach, getting on his knees to pleasure Communist Obama after Superstorm Sandy, and name-calling of anyone he disagreed with or just didn’t like. I see his bariatric lap band surgery in 2014 failed to keep his weight down. He’s bigger now than when he was in office. He’s on a short timeline on many issues.

  4. Commenter interrupts 152 words of name-calling Chris Christie to — not once, but twice — criticize Chris Christie for name-calling.

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