February 26, 2016
Today Donald Trump acquired a new running mate. We still can’t assume he’s the nominee, though he gets closer each day. We certainly can’t assume Chris Christie will parlay his endorsement into a spot on the ticket. Perhaps he would prefer Attorney General.
He’s now earned the endorsements of the 2008 GOP VP candidate and the 2012 GOP convention keynote speaker. Sarah Palin isn’t a very useful surrogate. She helped Trump with the news cycle for 48 to 72 hours, but proved too much of a distraction.
Christie is another story. He needs a path forward, be it on the ticket, in the cabinet, or otherwise. He doesn’t want to camp out in New Jersey for the rest of the year. As a Trump surrogate, he can open for him at rallies and talk for him on TV.
Compared to Palin, he’s always on message and much easier for Trump to manage. They’re both loud northeasterners. Christie’s slogan was “telling it like it is,” Trump wins exit polls with voters who prioritize that trait. Neither are particularly consistently conservative.
Best of all, with Trump facing his most direct threat from Rubio, he’s now officially linked to the guy who verbally disemboweled him in New Hampshire. Marco has made great strides over the past couple weeks in putting that debate behind him, but Christie is a constant reminder.
Sure, there are clips of Christie telling interviewers he didn’t think Trump had the right experience and temperament to be president. Once upon a time, George H.W. Bush called Ronald Reagan’s economic plan Voodoo Economics. That didn’t keep either of them out of the White House.
When you see a team on stage, sometimes it clicks better than other times. You can never determine the visual until you see it. Maybe you have a guess, but you need to see the chemistry.
When Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan as his official running mate, Ryan looked like a junior executive, getting a promotion to join the C-suite execs. Romney was the CEO, Ryan the new guy a couple of rungs down. Not a terrible look, but not great.
Back in 1992, Clinton-Gore was a rare instance of a candidate doubling down. Normally nominees go for balance. The experienced Joe Biden to give heft to Barack Obama. Dick Cheney for George W. Bush. Reagan’s conservatism was matched to Bush the Elder’s moderation.
Sometimes it’s about geography. John F. Kennedy from Massachusetts paired with Lyndon Johnson from Texas. In 1988, Michael Dukakis attempted the same with Lloyd Bentsen. Clinton and Gore were both young, both moderate to conservative by Democratic standards (reminder: Gore was more conservative once), and both from the South.
Christie and Trump aren’t the same age, but otherwise, even if only in theory, this is sort of a Clinton-Gore pairing. One other difference. Clinton and Gore were peers. Sure, the guy who got nominated was playing the alpha, but they were of equal accomplishment and stature. Clinton indicated Gore would play a larger than normal role in the administration.
This is the Trump Show. An actual ticket will be the Trump Show. A presidency will be the Trump Show. It’s not Trump-Christie, it’s TRUMP-Christie. However you score it, wherever this leads, the chemistry is good. They look very comfortable on stage together.
Marco Rubio had a temporary running mate in South Carolina after Nikki Haley endorsed him. She campaigned with him for a few days and they looked ready for the fall. It played no small role in reversing the narrative from New Hampshire and making Rubio look credible.
Trump entered today in way better shape than Rubio reached South Carolina in, but the Christie endorsement/road show stepped all over the Rubio Kicked Trump’s Ass in the Debate narrative.
On his own, the New Jersey governor was unable to overcome Bridgegate, a few apostasies in his record, the gaggle of other governors, etc. With Trump, he’s a force multiplier. We’ll see how the next few days and weeks go. The Donald may want to fly solo again very soon, or this may continue for a bit.
Christie may reduce his presence, but remain on call if needed to cover a Sunday show or provide spin or surrogate services. He spent a ton of time campaigning for GOP governors in 2014. Do not be surprised if a few of his gubernatorial peers follow his lead and endorse Trump.
If Cruz doesn’t make it much past March 1, it may put pressure on Rubio to make Ted his actual proposed running mate to try to push back against the duo. Several conservatives have already mentioned this, but if Trump and Christie are actively pushing together, it becomes more important.
As much as Cruz has struggled to maintain a top tier position and keep himself in line for the presidency, as a surrogate, he would play up. Moving from being an active presidential candidate to actual/pseudo running mate is like taking a starting pitcher and putting him in the bullpen. They start throwing harder.
Richard Nixon and Bob Dole were both excellent in this role in the past. Nixon did Eisenhower’s dirty work, while Ike remained above the fray. Dole concentrated on western states for Gerald Ford in 1976, and every single one fell into the GOP column.
While playing the bad guy didn’t help their immediate favorability, each saw their career progress afterwards. Rubio and Cruz are significantly more conservative than Trump and Christie. However, they also lack executive experience. It’s a big contrast. Contrasts are a good thing. It would provide a clear choice.
At this point, one ticket is informal and of uncertain duration, the other is hypothetical. There’s limited precedent. In 1976, Reagan named Richard Schweiker his proposed running mate on the eve of the GOP convention.
He was attempting to win enough delegates at the convention to wrest the nomination away from Ford, and his strategists hoped the moderate Schweiker would help sway officially uncommitted delegates from his home state of Pennsylvania and other eastern delegations.
This was after the primary voting ended. Not only is choosing a proposed VP this early unprecedented, but even pseudo running mates aren’t customary. This is different than having Lindsey Graham advocating for Jeb Bush.
This is an unprecedented presidential cycle. Perhaps it’s wise to continue breaking precedent. Trump-Christie looks good. Is Rubio-Cruz next?