Trump and Christie

What’s most interesting to me about Christie’s endorsement of Trump is the reaction from the media and my fellow political scientists.  This Brendan Nyhan tweet captures it (though, not just Political Science):

It is a big deal.  This is the first of (surely many) actually big-name, mainstream Republican figures (Palin is definitely not mainstream) to endorse Trump.  Symbolically, it seems to make his eventual nomination seem far more inevitable.  Some good takes from Nate Silver and Ezra Klein.  Silver:

There’s a lot that ties Christie and Trump together, however. Christie and Trump have a close personal relationship. Trump has long done business in Atlantic City and is quite popular among New Jersey Republicans. Neither Christie nor Trump is especially conservative, and they’re certainly not small-government conservatives. Both can rankle their fellow Republicans, as Christie did with his self-serving convention speech and embrace of President Obama during the 2012 campaign.

Some of this may also be plain old opportunism. Trump is the most likely Republican nominee, after all. (Or at least one of the two most likely if you’re feeling very generous to Marco Rubio.) If nominated, Trump will have to pick a running mate. And if he’s elected president, he’ll have to appoint a Cabinet. Vice President Christie or Attorney General Christie ain’t all that far-fetched…

It probably also won’t be the last major endorsement for Trump. Even if most “party elites” continue to resist Trump, a lot of Republican elected officials will be looking after their own best interests instead of the collective good of the party. Some will back Trump because he’s popular in their states. Some will be looking for opportunities within a Trump administration. Some will agree with Trump’s views on immigration or his critique of the political establishment. So there will be more of these endorsements, probably. But it isn’t surprising that Christie is one of the first.

And Ezra:

The Republican Party is facing a severe collective-action problem. It’s not clear Republicans can stop Trump at this point, but if they have any chance, it will take a tremendous mobilization — a coordinated, all-points assault like nothing a political party has managed in the modern era.

At the same time, though, the overwhelming incentive for any individual Republican power player is to defect to Trump’s side while the defection will still mean something. Endorsing Trump at a moment when Trump still needs endorsements might net you a job, a kickback, a call of appreciation, something. Endorsing Trump once he’s already the nominee is meaningless. Then you’re just a pathetic follower. A weakling. A loser...[emphasis mine]

Christie isn’t an outsider. He’s a member of the Republican establishment in good standing. He gave the keynote speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention. He was chair of the Republican Governor’s Association. He was vetted as Mitt Romney’s vice president. He is tied into the party’s think tanks, its funders, its advocacy organizations, its interest groups. His endorsement of Trump isn’t a sign that he’s changed; it’s a sign that he thinks what being a member of the Republican establishment means is changing. It used to mean endorsing Mitt Romney. Now it means endorsing Donald Trump.

 The Republican establishment is not a secret society in Washington — it’s the people who have power in the Republican Party. If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, the Republican establishment will quickly become people Donald Trump likes and entrusts with power. So now all the insiders who’ve fought Trump face a question: Do they hate Trump more than they love being on the inside?


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Trump and Christie

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    The way I see it that Chris Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump is a job seeking plan. H’ll need a job when his term as Governor ends. After all, that cushy job with David Samson’s (former head of the Port Authority) prominent law firm may no longer exist since Samson is now facing federal charges.
    Christie is no longer popular in New Jersey, polls say, so he can’t confidently run for the Senate. He must be thinking the Donald will reward him with a really big job for being the first GOP establishment bigwig to endorse him. Trump could make him Attorney-General, he dreams. Or maybe a Supreme Court justice. Dream on, Chris.
    Republican voters have already shown what they think of you. Tump has you down for a loser.

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