In Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic Western opera Dark Tower Series, the characters frequently say, “The world has moved on.” What they mean by that is that the old ways of doing things have fallen by the wayside as the order and structure of the world as humanity once knew it have fallen apart.
For Chris Christie’s Presidential campaign, it is painfully evident that the world has moved on, in the sense that his appeal and campaign strategy have little or no hope of working in 2016 – even though he would likely have been a prohibitive favorite in 2012, if he had run.
Pundits have been wont to say lately that Chris Christie is having a “resurgence” in his campaign. If this observation is true at all, it is only an indication of the sad state of disrepair into which the Christie campaign had fallen in the first place. Christie remains at 3-5% in the national polls, which is better than the 2% he was stuck at for many months, but not a level of support that indicates that things are going well by any stretch of the imagination.
Christie has risen to third in New Hampshire, which at least provides a plausible narrative under which Christie makes a brief splash, but there’s simply not a feasible story right now about how he wins the nomination. Christie’s goal in this contest has always been to co-opt Jeb Bush’s support if Bush faltered, which he seems to have had tremendous success doing. However, unfortunately for Christie, Bush’s support had fallen to single digits by the time he started the co-opting process.
As a result, he currently finds himself locked in a battle with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) for what is perceived as the pile of “establishment” votes. However, unfortunately for Christie, he is running as a candidate of the legitimate establishment, whereas Rubio is running as the candidate the establishment essentially has to settle for in light of the summary failure of all their candidates. In 2016, this means that Chris Christie’s mission is doomed to failure.
Moreover, everything about Christie, including his rhetorical style, appeal to governing competence over ideological purity, and areas of campaign focus, are better suited to campaigns of years past than 2016. As the New York Times noted, when contrasting him with Rubio on the campaign trail:
MUSCATINE, Iowa — It was the same question, on the same topic, asked on the same day to two different candidates: How, as president, would you hold down the crushing cost of a college education?
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey gave an operatic, eight-minute answer in which he derided rock-climbing walls as an extravagant campus fad, disclosed in minute detail his children’s tuition bill for the year ($120,500), poked fun at his weight and imagined a hypothetical showdown in which he told his 19-year-old daughter she could not return to the University of Notre Dame because of the price tag.
“After the crying, the stamping of the feet, the running upstairs, and slamming of door, the ‘you are ruining my life’ — you know what we are going to do,” he said to knowing laughs. “We are going to figure out a way, any way we can, to make it work.”
At a campaign stop 70 miles away, Senator Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) of Florida gave an answer half as long. Mr. Rubio efficiently, almost mechanically, ticked through his three-point plan to allow students to use work experience for class credit (in his words, “competency-based learning”), let private investors pay for tuition and make colleges divulge which majors yield the best-paying jobs. He concluded with a dark assessment of liberal arts colleges as “indoctrination camps” protected by the political left “because all their friends work there.”
The simple fact is that Rubio has figured out how to communicate to voters of today more effectively than Chris Christie has. Even in today’s blogging world we see it – videos that are more than 90 seconds long don’t get watched. Columns that don’t get to the point in the first paragraph don’t get read. And Chris Christie does not get elected President, no matter how good he was in the YouTube videos of 2010.
If Christie had run in 2012, he would likely have walked away with the nomination, warts and all, and would have given Obama a much tougher run for his money than Romney did. Instead, he waited for 2016, and in the meantime, the world has moved on.