I’m amazed by how many people are writing off Christie’s chances in 2016. The party establishment still thinks he’s a winner, his defects from the point of view of the conservative base of the party are a lot smaller than those of the last two nominees, and the latest poll numbers suggest this scandal isn’t obsessing voters as much as it is the press. I still think he’s got a better shot than anyone else for the Republican presidential nomination.
The Fix crew agrees:
Our case for Christie as front-runner — or, maybe, more accurately first among almost-equals — is built around the idea that there is no perfect/electable conservative in the race and that Christie has a decent chance of beating out Jindal, Rubio and Walker in the battle to be the establishment candidate. (There is a whole other primary — where Rand Paul is the front-runner — that will pick the outsider candidate to battle the establishment pick.) Of that quartet of credible establishment conservatives, Christie is the one who, at first glance, could most easily put together the tens (and probably hundreds) of millions of dollars needed to run real operations in a series of states in short order.
Yglesias throws cold water:
The relevant things about the 2016 primary are that it’s happening right now and that it’s really hard to win. It’s happening right now in the sense that in order to win, any candidate needs to first gain the allegiance (or at least nonhostility) of a wide range of elites outside his immediate political circle. House members from South Carolina. State senators from Iowa. Anti-abortion activists in New Hampshire. Talk radio hosts. Fox News executives. Donors. Lobbyists. State-level Chamber of Commerce chiefs. These people are paying attention right now, and they’re thinking about who they want to back and who they want to bandwagon against. And there’s just no way this bridge thing is making any of those people more likely to support Christie than they were six months ago. Republican elites are mostly looking to find a candidate who is both conservative, effective, and electable and this makes him look less electable and less effective without making him look more conservative. It’s bad news.
Christie’s strength among Republicans has waned. His overall approval is down, sure, from 68 percent last summer to 55 percent now. Much of the leakage is coming from Democrats (down 5 points) and independents (down 22 points). But he’s lost 15 points among Republicans—down from 96 percent approval to 81 percent approval. Not great.