Frustrated and flailing as his candidacy threatens to slip away, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is embarking on a scalding effort over the next week to discredit Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the man he blames for undermining his campaign and whose ascendancy he deeply resents.
And Mr. Christie has a secret ally: Jeb Bush.
The shared concern has even prompted the opening of a back channel: Members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt Mr. Rubio’s rise in the polls, according to Republican operatives familiar with the conversations.
While emails, texts and phone calls between operatives in rival campaigns are not uncommon in the tight-knit world of political strategists, the contact between senior aides in the two campaigns has drifted toward musings about what can be done to stop or at least slow Mr. Rubio, the operatives said.
In a sign of a budding alliance, the aides have, for example, exchanged news articles that raise potential areas of vulnerability for Mr. Rubio. There is no formal coordination, the operatives stressed, but rather a recognition of a shared agenda.
“We do have similar goals,” an adviser to Mr. Christie said.
A division of labor seems to have taken hold. While a well-financed “super PAC” supporting Mr. Bush assails Mr. Rubio on television and in the mail (it will release a new batch of ads on Thursday), Mr. Christie has stepped up the critiques on the campaign trail.
“Jeb can’t do that sort of stuff,” said an adviser to Mr. Christie, referring to the New Jersey governor’s slashing “boy in the bubble” attack on Mr. Rubio and his comfort with political street fighting. “They don’t have the weapon.”
The alliance makes sense, operatives said. A strong primary night in New Hampshire for Mr. Rubio would allow him to make a compelling case to voters and donors that he is the surest bet for unifying the party against its most divisive presidential contenders, Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. And it would make it harder for Mr. Bush and Mr. Christie to justify remaining in the race.
And the alliance is really obvious. Here you see the head of Right To Rise, Mike Murphy, fluffing Chris Christie in order to damage Rubio:
One of many reasons why HRC would easily beat Rubio. Pro-life can win, but no exceptions is no sale to swing vtrs. https://t.co/sc5BnDhPko
I don’t see how this works. Unless Christie finishes at least fourth in New Hampshire, he is a goner. He has just over $1 million in the bank and without a win to energize his fundraising he will be dead broke by the end of the month. If he does finish fourth, that means he is in front of Jeb. Even if his attacks on Rubio work, they don’t help Christie but they do, plausibly, draw more votes to Bush and Kasich, both of whom are in better financial shape than Christie. This is a desperation play that seems to have no end game beyond Christie being able to say that he knocked out Rubio.
What makes this so egregious is that neither Bush nor Christie have a path to either the nomination or general election victory. They aren’t trying to win, they are must trying to pull down Rubio on their way out. And, of course, it only works if Marco Rubio stands there and lets it happen:
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