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Eye On Candidates
July 1, 2015

Chris Christie’s Path to the Nomination

Coverage of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's announcement yesterday suggests few in the press corps see much hope for what is being described as a "long-shot" campaign. This Washington Post article is fairly typical:

Chris Christie dismisses his naysayers as he launches a long-shot 2016 bid

...National party leaders once lavished praise on Christie and touted him as the Republican future, but few of them showed up Tuesday to stand with him. The crowd was modest in size, as was the gym — boxy rather than cavernous, reflective of his diminished standing as the 14th official candidate in a still-expanding GOP field.

Wearing a dark suit and roaming the stage with a wireless microphone like a talk-show host, Christie shrugged off his naysayers. In a nod to the venue, he said he is not running “as a surrogate for being prom king.”

Left unmentioned were Christie’s myriad problems: a politically motivated traffic snarl that engulfed his administration and led to indictments for several former aides, shuttered casinos in Atlantic City, a cascade of credit downgrades that have rattled the state’s economy, and a pension system with billions in unfunded liabilities...

But that isn't to say there is no path to the nomination for Christie. The New York Times provides a realistic assessment of how Christie might wind up with the Republican nod in 2016. A few excerpts:

The Coalition - Mr. Christie’s voters are likely to come from the moderate wing of the Republican Party. While he opposes abortion rights, he has little natural connection to Christian conservatives. He is better suited to the business community and party activists who find his pugnacity appealing. A Christie voter is somebody who appreciates tough talk – but not tough talk about, say, unseating Supreme Court justices.
The Map - Mr. Christie's hopes begin – and could end – in New Hampshire. He is counting on fellow Northeasterners to warm to him in the same way they have taken to other presidential candidates who have a tell-it-like-it-is image. But he is hardly the only Republican relying on the state’s famously flinty voters to vault him into contention. If he does manage to win New Hampshire, he could emerge as a strong rival to candidates with similar followings, like Jeb Bush, as the race shifts to South Carolina and Nevada. And if he can fare well in those states, he could stay alive into March...
Why He Will Win - Few politicians can match Mr. Christie’s charisma and knack for give-and-take. His skills are not to be found in a briefing book. He is particularly well suited for New Hampshire’s tradition of freewheeling town halls. If he can match his performances there with a few successful turns in televised debates, he could vault into contention...
The Times piece notes he has considerable challenges to overcome, including difficulty with fundraising and high negative numbers in polls of Republican voters. But Christie rose to prominence nationally in large part based on his performances in town-hall style meetings, and it's easy to see him repeating the feat on the stump in New Hampshire and using that to propel him into the upper tier of candidates, particularly if he can get into the debates and performs well on stage.