If Not Christie, Who?

Beinart eyes the GOP’s shallow bench:

There are other potential Republican contenders who share some of Christie’s strengths. Like Christie, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker can run as a tough, capable manager who isn’t from Washington. Like Christie, Rand Paul has defied his party on key issues—for instance, NSA surveillance—and may have somewhat greater appeal to the young. But of the potential candidates right now, only Christie can run as the bipartisan to Clinton’s partisan, the outsider to her insider, and the plain-speaking everyman to her scripted, poll-tested inauthenticity.

The weaker a political party, the more it requires a candidate of outsized reputation or unusual talent to overcome its deficiencies. That’s what that Republicans had in 1952, when a party still paying for its opposition to the New Deal changed the subject by nominating the general who oversaw D-Day. It’s what Democrats had in 1992, when a party hemorrhaging support among white voters found a governor gifted and ruthless enough to win some of them back. And it’s what the GOP had with Chris Christie, the rare national Republican who seems neither removed from the problems of ordinary Americans nor hostile to the cultural changes transforming the country.

Republicans had better hope Christie can still be that man. Because it’s hard to see who else in their party can.

I find it hard to disagree. Scott Walker as presidential timber? Seriously? Kilgore doubts Christie can recover:

Personally, I never saw Christie winning the nomination; his record on guns, his lack of ties to the Christian Right (his mockery of the “Shariah Law” obsession will infuriate them) and his support for Medicaid expansion would be terrible handicaps even when memories of his “treasonous” cooperation with Barack Obama on Sandy response late in the 2012 campaign faded. But whatever else transpires from the strange saga on the George Washington Bridge, Christie has very likely lost the talisman of being a certain general election winner for the GOP.

Chotiner agrees that Christie’s 2016 strategy is in shambles:

It will simply not be possible to view him in the same light. “Toughness” will come across as bullying; “straight-talk” will seem gimmicky; anger will appear thuggish.

What this means, most likely, is that he will have to reinvent himself into a different kind of politician: more buttoned-up, more responsible, less wild. This is a very difficult thing for even a skilled politician like Christie to do (especially if not all of his outbursts are planned). But it also defeats the entire purpose of his candidacy. Why not just nominate Marco Rubio or Scott Walker? (It also makes it impossible for him to paper over his differences with the Republican right; his plan was to do so by using his tough-guy demeanor.)

Drum’s bottom line:

I could see Christie winning if the country were undergoing some kind of horrific disaster, like the Great Depression. In a case like that, it’s possible that Americans would just want someone who’d kick all the right asses and wouldn’t much care about the other stuff. But 2016 seems likely to be a fairly ordinary year, with a decent economy and no huge foreign crises. If that’s how it turns out, I have a hard time seeing how Christie manages to win.