Chris Christie Is Running For President. But Is He Too Late?

The New Jersey governor is announcing his campaign in New Jersey this morning.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie launches his White House campaign at Livingston High School, June 30, 2015. 
National Journal
June 30, 2015, 7:18 a.m.

Chris Christie is running for president. The question now is if he’s four years too late.

The bombastic New Jersey governor shot to national prominence on his bravado and force of personality after his 2009 election. He quickly took on the unions there and touted his ability, as a Republican, to get things done in a Democratic-controlled state.

By 2011, many of the nation’s leading GOP financiers were trying to recruit him to run against Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination. Christie took a pass then. On Tuesday, he entered the 2016 presidential sweepstakes in the high school gym of his hometown of Livingston, New Jersey, in a far less favorable position.

Christie presented himself as a Washington outsider, saying that both parties have “failed” there.

“Americans are filled with anxiety. They are filled with anxiety because they look to Washington, D.C., and they see a government that not only doesn’t work anymore, it doesn’t even talk to each other anymore,” he said Tuesday. “It doesn’t even pretend to work. We have a president in the Oval Office who ignores the Congress and a Congress that ignores the president.”

That’s not where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton belongs, he said.

“After seven years of a weak and feckless foreign policy run by Barack Obama, we better not turn it over to his second mate, Hillary Clinton.”

That’s where Christie comes in.

“We need strength and decision-making and authority back in the Oval Office, and that is why today I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination for president of the United States of America,” he said.

Many of the GOP moneymen who once urged Christie to run are lining up behind his rivals, most notably former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Once viewed as an early 2016 front-runner, Christie’s national ambitions have been snarled in a traffic and political-payback scandal of his administration’s own making, one that has seen one ally already plead guilty and two former aides facing indictment.

Along the way, Christie has become a polarizing figure, even among Republicans. More than half of GOP voters, in a March Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, said they couldn’t see themselves backing Christie. It was the highest figure among GOP politicians in the poll.

Christie’s path has narrowed dramatically from the national primary campaign his team had once hoped to run. Christie has courted Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad for years and made national contacts as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

But as he launches his campaign, Christie’s 2016 hopes hinge mostly on New Hampshire, where he has already begun a series of town-hall-style meetings that his advisers believe could reinvigorate his candidacy. Quick-witted and with an uncanny ability to connect with small audiences, Christie’s team believes New Hampshire can slingshot him back atop the field, much as it did for John McCain, who barnstormed the state in the 2000 and 2008 primaries in a bus he labeled the “Straight Talk Express.” Christie’s campaign slogan is “Telling It Like It Is.”

“If we are going to lead, we have to stop worrying about being loved and start worrying about being respected again both at home and around the world,” Christie said Tuesday. “I am not running for president of the United States as a surrogate for the elected prom king of America. I am not looking to be the most popular guy who looks in your eyes every day and says what you want to hear and turn around and do something else.”

Christie said his honest style will be immediately on display on the campaign trail.

“When I’m asked a question, I will give the answer to the question asked, not the answer my political consultants told me to give backstage,” he said. “A campaign that, every day, will not worry about whether or not it’s popular, but because it’s right. What is right will fix America, not what is popular.”

To bolster this straight-talking image, Christie is putting an overhaul of Social Security and Medicare front and center in his campaign, announcing his details to hike the retirement age this spring. He did so in New Hampshire, where he will return hours after his New Jersey kickoff. Christie will stay in the state through the July 4th holiday.

Christie’s struggles back in New Jersey, though, threaten his comeback attempt. While Christie himself was not directly implicated in the traffic-causing scandal, the case—and the questions it has raised about the culture he created in his administration—continues to follow him. The state’s economic recovery has trailed its neighboring states, and the state has seen numerous credit downgrades under Christie’s watch. His New Jersey approval ratings have sunk to new lows.

In a pair of symbolic blows, one of Christie’s former closest allies in the New Jersey Legislature, Sen. Joe Kyrillos, who chaired Christie’s first campaign for governor, has lined up behind Bush. And Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets (who play in New Jersey) and a past Christie supporter, has signed on as Bush’s finance chairman.

What We're Following See More »
Pence Traveling to Colombia
17 minutes ago

"Vice President Mike Pence will go to Colombia on Monday to speak with the Colombian president and regional leaders about the ongoing turmoil in Venezuela and rally the international community behind opposition leader Juan Guaidó." Pence "will deliver remarks to the 14 nations that are part of the 'Lima Group' in Bogota," and will meet with Colombian President Ivan Duque.

Rep. Bradley Byrne Announces Bid Against Sen. Doug Jones
19 minutes ago

"U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne became the first official Republican entrant into the 2020 U.S. Senate race announcing his intention to run in a race that could become one of the most expensive political contests in Alabama history. Byrne, a three-term congressman from Fairhope, said he anticipates the fundraising during the lengthy 2020 campaign to eclipse the 2017 special Senate election, in which an estimated $50 million was spent during the contest. Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones, who narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore in that election, raised more than $24 million."

Coast Guard Lt. Planned Large-scale Terrorist Attack
48 minutes ago

"A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist was arrested after federal investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland home that authorities say he stockpiled to launch a widespread domestic terrorist attack targeting politicians and journalists...Though court documents do not detail a specific planned date for an attack, the government said he had been amassing supplies and weapons since at least 2017, developed a spreadsheet of targets that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and searched the Internet using phrases such as “best place in dc to see congress people” and “are supreme court justices protected.”

Trump Signs Border Deal
5 days ago

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Trump Declares National Emergency
5 days ago

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.