Chris Christie’s Long Game?

The far-right is furious that Christie opted for a special election to fill Lautenberg’s now vacant Senate seat. Here’s Dick Armey:

Sean Trende, on the other hand, thinks Christie might be a “genius”:

Christie’s choice was basically a special election in October or a special election in November. Why October? This is simple: He doesn’t want to just win, he wants to win overwhelmingly. Right now he is leading his opponent by over 30 points in the RCP Average. A victory that big would be headline-grabbing, and would send the message that Christie can carry unfriendly territory. Perhaps more importantly, southeast Pennsylvania gets a lot of southern New Jersey news, and a Republican who runs well in southeast Pennsylvania has a very good chance of winning that state.

Moreover, a big win could have coattails. While Republicans are unlikely to pick up the five seats they need to take over the state Senate, and are very unlikely to pick up the nine seats they would need to control the General Assembly, Christie has been very successful implementing his agenda with a fairly unfriendly legislature. Even moving the ball slightly in his direction could make a big difference in what he can accomplish in the next few years.

A reader suspects a long game is at work:

I’d like to pose a question no one seems to be asking about Chris Christie’s recent moves that have caused so much anger among the Tea Party/GOP base: What if Christie doesn’t want the 2016 nomination?

Personally, I think Christie is positioning himself to be the leader of the GOP after it repudiates the far right, xenophobic, racist and christianist wing of the party. Obviously, you’ve written a lot about when or whether that repudiation is going to happen, but it looks to me like Chris Christie is betting it will, but not until after 2016.

Imagine this scenario:

Christie, again, refuses to run in 2016. The nomination goes to one of the young, far-right, “next generation” leaders of the current GOP like Rubio or Rand Paul or Ted Cruz or even Santorum. Such an inexperienced candidate wouldn’t have the clout or the confidence to stand up to the same GOP super PACs and consultants that bled the Romney campaign dry and offered up terrible advice, alienating ads and skewed polls. Once again, against undeniable demographic change, the GOP runs a campaign that alienates young people, minorities, immigrants, etc. The democratic nominee (Hilary?) uses President Obama’s/David Plouffe’s campaign machine and wins with a margin that closely resembles the 2012 election.

If there was ever an event that could give the GOP the will to break the deal with the devil that was the Southern Strategy (both the racist aspects and the alliance with hard-right evangelicals), it would be a 3rd straight loss to a non white male candidate. If anyone is in position to lead the insurrection within the GOP against the people who ran it into the ground, it’s Chris Christie.

That’s a big if. In my opinion, the Rove’s of the GOP have too much power and money behind them and they’re not going to give that up without a major fight. With Fox News on their side, the base won’t be willing to revolt against the people they have come to trust almost blindly. But if the base does get frustrated enough to look for a less offensive alternative, Christie is their man.

Chris Christie is smart. He’s proven that. He knows that the base won’t be ready to nominate someone who really wants to change the party in 2016. I think he’s decided that he doesn’t want to be the leader of this Republican Party, he wants to be the leader of the next one.

Christie’s poll numbers indicate that he currently has strong bipartisan support:

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows 41 percent of Americans view Christie positively, compared to just 12 percent who view him negatively. And he gets equally strong marks from across the political spectrum, with 43 percent of Democrats viewing him favorably. That 29-point split is the best among any politician studied, including longtime leader and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who is viewed positively by 49 percent and negatively by 31 percent.