Thursday, January 11, 2024

Another one bites the dust

 Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie has ended his presidential campaign. 

Christie told a crowd of supporters in New Hampshire on Wednesday night, “Campaigns are run to win. That’s why we do them. It’s clear to me tonight that there isn’t a path for me to win the nomination.”

Christie never had a path. 

Chris Christie speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (by Gage Skidmore on Wikimedia)

In today’s Republican Party, there is no place for a politician who does not express devotion to Donald Trump. That has been made abundantly clear over and over again. 

This fact is underscored by how Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis offer watered-down criticism of Trump that is tempered with caution. Hitting Trump too hard is seen as a personal affront by the Republican base that adores The Former Guy

In fact, if you were to listen to DeSantis and Haley, you’d be hard pressed to tell that there was another candidate in the race. Even in their one-on-one debate, the two also-rans spend more time bashing each other than the frontrunner and presumptive nominee.

That was Christie’s role. 

Christie was the attack dog. The problem was that his effectiveness was blunted by Donald Trump’s tacit acknowledgment that debating the other candidates could only hurt him. It’s tough to land blows on a competitor when he won’t come out and fight (which is odd for a perceived “fighter”).

Nevertheless, I was glad to have Christie in the race in the role of Jiminy Cricket to the Republican Party. Christie was the one candidate who wouldn’t let voters forget that Donald Trump was and is both corrupt and incompetent. Acting as the GOP’s conscience has likely ended Christie’s political career for good, but he deserves kudos and gratitude for his courage in standing against the masses. 

That’s true even though Christie did back Trump in both 2016 and 2020. It’s easy for Never Trump to say that Christie should have never backed Trump to begin with (and even Christie agrees on that point), but Trump critics should make it easy for former Trump supporters to defect. To use a military metaphor, you don’t encourage the enemy to surrender by shooting those who try to cross the lines with their hands up. 

With the Iowa caucuses a few days away and the New Hampshire primary shortly after that, Christie’s campaign had outlived its usefulness. As he acknowledges, Christie had no path to victory and his presence in the race was drawing support away from other candidates who were not Trump. The big question now is who stands to gain from Christie’s exit.

One thing that is certain is that few of Christie’s voters are likely to go to Trump. Given Christie’s brand and campaign, I can’t see why any of his supporters would switch their allegiance to Trump now that Christie is out of the race. Christie voters will almost certainly go to Haley or Desantis, but who gets the bigger gain?

ABC News recently took a look at polls that asked about the second choice of Republican voters. Nationally, an average of 50 percent of Christie supporters ranked Haley as their second choice compared with 12 percent for DeSantis and five percent for Vivek Ramaswamy. Six percent chose Trump for some reason. 

In Iowa, the average was somewhat lower at 37 percent for Haley and six percent for DeSantis. Trump garnered 11 percent there and Ramaswamy only one percent.

Haley did much better in New Hampshire, however. In the Granite State, Haley was the second choice of 48 percent of Christie voters compared to five percent for DeSantis, two percent for Ramaswamy, and six percent for Trump. 

You might notice that these numbers don’t add up to 100 percent. I haven’t examined each of the polls, but the remainder is probably “undecided” or “someone else.”

There are a few other caveats as well. Not many polls ask about second choices so the data is limited. Iowa and New Hampshire only had two polls to consider and there were only four nationally. 

The data is also old. Some of the polls go all the way back to November. A lot has changed since then. 

Given Haley’s recent surge in the polls, we can speculate that Haley’s position may be better than the data suggests, and there is some evidence to back this up. A Suffolk poll taken in late December showed Haley as the second choice of 79 percent of respondents nationally. 

Again, there are caveats. Two different polls showed Haley’s second-choice share falling in Iowa in December and remaining relatively stable in New Hampshire. This underscores the difference between different pollsters, different time periods, and different states.

There is also the question of how much Christie voters matter. Nationally, Christie only had an average of about four percent. That number also held for Iowa polling. In New Hampshire, however, Christie was polling at almost 12 percent

And New Hampshire is where Christie voters will matter. 

In Iowa, DeSantis and Haley are statistically tied and both trail Trump by more than 30 points. Iowa’s weird caucus system and unpredictable weather provide some hope that Trump voters won’t turn out, but it would take a miracle to pull off an upset there. 

In New Hampshire, however, Haley has surged dramatically and a recent University of New Hampshire poll has her within seven points of Trump. That poll was taken a week ago and given the dynamic state of the race, Haley was probably closer than that even before Christie dropped out. There is a real chance of a Haley upset in New Hampshire, especially if second-choice voters are coalescing behind Haley as the Suffolk poll suggests. 

If Haley can win New Hampshire, it might puncture the air of inevitability that surrounds Trump’s campaign. At that point, Republican voters may start to seriously consider Trump’s negatives and look at alternatives. 

If Haley can’t win New Hampshire, polling elsewhere is not optimistic for a second chance. She even trails in her home state of South Carolina by about 25 points

To be blunt, even if Haley wins New Hampshire, she has an uphill battle to win the nomination. Without New Hampshire or Donald Trump having a heart attack, there is no path, however. I don’t even think a Trump conviction would do the trick. 

I know that a lot of Trump critics have problems with Haley for her lack of consistency and forthrightness about Donald Trump. I feel the same way and I disagree with her position on a pardon for Trump among other things. 

Having said that, Haley is not Trump, and she is the last, best chance for preventing Trump from winning the nomination. She is the closest thing to a traditional Republican conservative in the race. I would absolutely vote for Nikki Haley in the primary. My two big issues this year are accountability for Donald Trump and support for Ukraine. Haley is only batting .500, but the other option, Ron DeSantis, strikes out. 

As to the general election, she has a long way to go to convince me. I wanted to support Haley, but the more she talked the less I liked her. Whether she can repair the damage of the primary and make the case for my vote in November remains to be seen, but I hope she gets the chance to try. 

Finally, I’ll add that Christie should be commended for getting out of the race when he did, rather than waiting for disappointing showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. Getting out now gives voters time to consider their options and make a choice on who to back. Christie’s decision to bow out gives Haley the chance to succeed (even though Christie thinks she will “get smoked”).

Thank you for reading The Racket News ™. This post is public so feel free to share it.


CHRIS CHRISTIE BYE-KU: As I have noted in the past, I am continuing the tradition of former Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto in writing a haiku to mark the departure of each candidate from the race. Here then, is a bye-ku for Chris Christie in special meme form:

Share The Racket News ™

chris christy beach | Jersey shore guv’nor

Spent time as a truth-teller; Banished back to beach; A BYE-KU FOR CHRIS CHRISTIE BY @CAPTAINKUDZU | image tagged in chris christy beach | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

Thanks for reading The Racket News ™! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

From the Racket News 

No comments: