Will Christie Join Trump in D.C. and End His Term as Governor Early?
Gov. Chris Christie shocked people in February when he became the first establishment Republican to endorse Donald Trump for president.
But that loyalty and friendship may now lead to a Washington job for Christie – and an early departure as New Jersey’s two-term governor.
Not since Gov. Tom Kean left office in 1990 has someone served eight full years as New Jersey governor, and that streak suddenly looks likely to continue. Political analyst Carl Golden expects Christie will leave early next year for a federal position offered by President-elect Donald Trump.
“I think it’s pretty much a given that the governor will be offered a position of some prominence,” said Golden, who worked for Kean and Gov. Christie Whitman.
Seton Hall political scientist Matthew Hale says it’s more likely that Christie is offered an appointed position, such as White House chief of staff, than a Cabinet post requiring Senate approval. But those political obituaries about Christie may have been premature.
“Well, I certainly think that today is a lot better for Chris Christie than it was yesterday,” Hale said.
While there is speculation that Christie, a former U.S. attorney for New Jersey, could be appointed attorney general, that position – or other Cabinet spots, such as Department of Homeland Security secretary – would involve a Senate confirmation hearing.
And that hearing could dwell on the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal that had led to convictions or guilty pleas of three former allies, all of whom claimed at trial that they told Christie about the political retribution scheme before or during its implementation. Christie denies it.
“Bridgegate was so messy and so much about ugly, savage politics that it sort of contradicts the idea that we’re bringing in new people,” Hale said.
Golden, who is affiliated with Stockton University, says Trump’s team would not want an early Cabinet nominee rejected.
“That phrase ‘drain the swamp’ is going to be thrown back at them, I suspect, if they nominate the governor and the questions are raised about what the governor knew,” Golden said.
Hale thinks an attorney general appointment is a long shot but that Christie could get a key role – perhaps the most important staff position – in Trump’s White House.
“If he wants it, I think he could be the chief of staff, and that’s an incredibly powerful position, on top of being the transition director, which is also a powerful position. So, Chris Christie lives another day,” said Hale.
If Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is the choice for White House chief of staff, it’s possible Christie could be tapped as the next RNC chairman. He was effective at raising money and recruiting candidates when he led the Republican Governors Association in 2014.
“It could be a fit,” Hale said. “But at the same time, it all goes back to the optics of Chris Christie’s administration in New Jersey seen as corrupt and as vindictive and as mean, and I think that’s going to hurt him.”
If Christie were to leave, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno would become governor. She could then run for a full term as governor next year with the benefits, such as name recognition, that come from being the incumbent – and perhaps create an identity beyond her connection with Christie.