Political Pundits – It’s Critical for Christie to be in First Debate
As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continues to struggle in the latest round of presidential polls, three local political pundits said it's imperative for him to have a place in next month's upcoming debate to be considered a serious contender for the White House.
The number could change, but as it currently stands only the Republican presidential candidates who place in the top 10 in national polls will be eligible to participate in the first GOP primary debate scheduled for Aug. 6 on Fox News.
Currently, Christie is in tenth place in the first survey released since he launched his presidential campaign on June 30. Political experts said Christie's candidacy would be in serious trouble if he doesn't make it into the debate.
"If he doesn't get on that stage it's going to be a big disappointment for him because it undercuts his stand as a credible national candidate," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "If he is not seen nationally as one of the top 10 candidates it will definitely hurt him."
Christie already has a narrow path to victory because of his reputation as a Republican who is too moderate for the conservatives, according to Murray. He predicted that path would narrow even more if the governor is shut out of the first debate.
Another political expert said not qualifying for the debate should have Christie thinking long and hard about dropping out of the race.
"If he doesn't make the field, if he's not on that stage, I think he should just quit. If he's not even on the stage I really don't see what the point is," said Seton Hall University Political Science Associate Professor Matt Hale.
The governor has proven that he is excellent in debates and they are his opportunity to breakthrough and get his national poll numbers up, Hale said, who added that it is essential for Christie to be on that stage.
The debate will separate the legitimate candidates from the fringe candidates and it provides a very valuable platform for candidates to distinguish themselves in a very crowded field, according to Brigid Harrison, political science professor at Montclair State University.
She added that Christie's campaign would be damaged if he didn't qualify for the debate, but she doesn't think it's enough to end his candidacy.
"I don't know that he could recover from not being in that debate, but I don't think that the governor will step aside so quickly. I think that even if he doesn't make the debate he will continue along this road until perhaps he runs out of money or it becomes increasingly clear that he's really not going to get a first, second or third place in New Hampshire," Harrison said.
As long as the governor believes he has a chance in New Hampshire he is likely to stay in the race, according to Harrison.
The debate will be held live from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio from 9 - 11 p.m. It's being sponsored by Fox News and Facebook in conjunction with the Ohio Republican Party.