Nate Silver considers the choices facing Governor Christie after the death of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg:
There are conflicting interpretations of exactly what New Jersey’s law requires — whether a special election should be held this November, when Gov. Chris Christie will be up for re-election, or in November 2014, when Mr. Lautenberg’s term was set to expire. In the interim, Mr. Christie, a Republican, has the option of appointing a senator, but he is not required to do so. Though Mr. Christie’s decision could have some implications for how is perceived as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, it may not have much effect on who eventually wins the election for Mr. Lautenberg’s seat. …
If Mr. Christie wants to maximize the G.O.P.’s chances of holding on to the seat, the path is fairly straightforward. He would want to appoint a moderate Republican who had held a prominent elected office before, who could raise money quickly and who could scale up to the effort that a statewide campaign would require.
“I think this ends his 2016 chances. It’s year after year with this guy,” complained one senior Republican official.
The GOP’s one hope for reaching the middle is thereby frummed out of the race. John Fund meanwhile, downplays concerns about pushback from New Jersey’s conservatives:
Democrats say Christie faces an excruciating choice on whom he appoints. As David Axelrod, the strategist behind President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 victories put it: “Fascinating dilemma for Christie. Does he name interim who reflects his more moderate state, or feed Tea Party for ’16?” … [E]very New Jersey conservative I spoke with is realistic. “As much as I’d like to see a Steve Forbes or Bret Schundler get the appointment, I realize Christie’s not going there,” one told me. “I think we can get someone who is solid on the key issues and also can win in the Northeast.” He points out that, of the 22 Senators from the region, the GOP currently has only three – Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire, Susan Collins from Maine, and Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania.