At the end of a long, depressing article about Super Tuesday, Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Dan Balz write:
“[Chris] Christie’s endorsement [of Donald Trump] sends a signal to mainstream Republicans that, hey, this guy might be all right,” said pollster Neil Newhouse, who advised Right to Rise. “That’s a very tough combination for Marco Rubio to overcome right now.”
Sending such signals has become a Christie specialty. A few days before the 2012 election, the New Jersey governor’s embrace of President Obama signaled to undecided centrist voters that Obama was all right. Obama had been insisting hat he could get along with Republicans. Christie provided him with evidence that until then had — and ever since has — been lacking.
Will “mainstream Republicans” take to heart Christie’s view that Trump is “all right” or will they see the endorsement as sheer opportunism — the attempt of a term limited governor to become Trump’s running mate (not at all likely) or his Attorney General (quite possible and rather frightening)? If we’re talking about mainstream Republican voters, I doubt that Christie’s endorsement carries much weight. The New Jersey man barely made a dent during his own presidential run and is unpopular even in his home state.
Christie’s campaign failed to gain traction because mainstream conservatives don’t trust him. It wasn’t just “the hug” either. They perceive Christie as a big government centrist. Trump siphoned off most of that vote, with much of the remainder going to John Kasich. Thus, I don’t see Christie’s endorsement having much of a direct impact on voters, especially on Super Tuesday when much of the voting will be in states where Christie would have been lucky to clear 3 percent.
If we’re talking about Republican office holders, Christie’s endorsement may be reassuring. I gather that he is respected by his fellow governors, some of whom (such as Maryland governor Larry Hogan) he worked to elect in his capacity as chair of the Republican Governors Association.
Thus, Christie’s endorsement may prompt some office holders to migrate to Trump. If, as seem likely, the tycoon is marching inexorably towards the nomination, office holders will jump on board anyway. But Christie’s endorsement may hasten that process.
Even before his endorsement of Trump, Christie had an embarrassing national legacy. With the opportunistic endorsement — one he said he would never make — that legacy moves from embarrassing to disgraceful.