Can Christie Emerge as the Establishment Candidate?
There are less than two weeks to go before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses and roughly three weeks away from the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary, but while Gov. Chris Christie trails some other GOP hopefuls in both states, one political expert advised against counting him out.
The four candidates considered to be the top establishment candidates are New Jersey Christie, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and John Kasich. Christie trails Rubio and Bush in polls of Iowa voters and he trails Rubio and Kasich in New Hampshire.
“We talk about how Donald Trump is running away with this and how nobody is even close to him, but part of the reason nobody’s close to him is that the establishment hasn’t figured out yet who its champion is going to be,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “The question is: At this stage now does Chris Christie have what it takes to emerge as the one out of the pack of four establishment candidates.”
In New Hampshire, the establishment won 56 percent of the vote four years ago and right now if you add up the four establishment candidates, they are polling around 43 percent. Murray said that number was lower because Trump is dominating, but the numbers were still pretty strong.
“If he is the top establishment candidate or if he’s right behind Marco Rubio there’s a story that’s going to be told about how well Chris Christie did in Iowa and that helps him in New Hampshire where he’s right there in the mix of being the top establishment candidate and I think whoever emerges out of New Hampshire is going to be the candidate to take on Donald Trump throughout the rest of this campaign,” Murray predicts.
The unannounced lane closures in Fort Lee leading to the George Washington Bridge just before Christie was reelected governor in 2013 led to now-infamous "Bridgegate" scandal. One former Christie ally has pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection to the incident and two other former allies face trial this year. Both have pleaded not guilty. The scandal hurt Christie’s poll numbers in the Garden State and may ultimately harm his run for the White House.
“I think if Chris Christie has been the establishment candidate and had been able to hold on to the kind of support he was getting from the powerbrokers in the Republican Party before Bridgegate hit we would be talking about a much different race right now because some of the anti-establishment voters, particularly in New Hampshire would actually like a guy like Christie if he didn’t happen to already be a governor,” Murray said.