Mr. Christie has been called a lot of things, but until Wednesday’s debate performance, “barely there” was not among them. In eight minutes of speaking time, Mr. Christie said little of substance. As for his parting pitch that he’s “deadly serious about changing this culture” of government, well, his constituents in New Jersey know better.
This isn’t strictly about Mr. Christie’s fitness for the presidency. His role in New Jersey’s budget crisis, betrayal on affordable housingand the interlocking scandals on his watch, from Bridgegate to “the chairman’s flight,” say a great deal about that.
The point is that New Jersey is in trouble, and the governor is off pursuing a presidential run that’s turned out to be nothing more than a vanity project. Mr. Christie’s numbers are in the basement, and he’s nearly out of campaign cash. This is his moment, all right: to go home and use the rest of his term to clean out the barn, as Speaker John Boehner would say.
Mr. Christie emerged as a national politician because his constituents saw him as a leader who put New Jersey first. His state battered by Hurricane Sandy and his party riven by the Tea Party, he sought needed federal assistance, and if that meant embracing a Democratic president, so what. “So what?” was a positive Christie characteristic back then. One could disagree with his methods, but he managed to make his efforts on behalf of his state seem sincere.
It must have been rough for those who re-elected him to see him hold forth Wednesday in a debate that centered on the national economy, when he’s been a net failure on the New Jersey economy. On his watch, one of the per-capita richest states in the nation has become one its biggest laggards in economic growth, its budget woes prompting an appalling series of credit downgrades. Mr. Christie’s promises, from fixing the state’s pensions shortfall to its infrastructure, have come to less than nothing. More galling still is that he was not the only such politician on the dais. Since when does shortchanging your home state — looking at you, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal — qualify a public servant to be president?
Two observations: One, as I said years ago, Chris Christie would have to tilt too far to the right to be able to sell his record as a blue state Republican to 2016 GOP primary voters who hate him. And two, given the record of the the Republican politicans who have wrecked their states: Perry, Walker, Christie, Jindal, Bush and Rubio, no wonder they are turning to Trump, Carson and Fiorina. They haven't failed them yet.
Christie has run New Jersey into the ground and continues to face serious questions about using his office to damage his political opponents. Of course he was never going to win, and he never had a chance.
Not that New Jersey is going to be glad to see him, but he owes the state his best effort to fix the problems he left behind when he ran for the White House.