In an interview last week with Axios, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stated that he will never support Donald Trump for president again — even if he wins the Republican nomination.
With that statement, Christie unilaterally eliminated his own minuscule chance to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
I have already predicted the demise of Donald Trump as a 2024 presidential candidate due to anticipated upcoming indictments. I commend Christie for unequivocally ruling out support for Trump in the 2024 general election. And as my readers know, commendations for Chris Christie are not activities one will normally associate with Alan Steinberg.
At the same time, Christie is an individual of substantial political sagacity. He must know that his unequivocal denunciation and pledge of non-support for Trump will be viewed as an act of treason by both MAGA and non-MAGA Trump loyalist Republican voters. Such massive and overwhelming disapproval will make it impossible for Chris Christie to win the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Given the virtual impossibility of Christie winning the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, would he be willing to accept the role of the presidential candidate of a 2024 center- right independent party?
There are circumstances under which such a center-right independent 2024 presidential candidacy movement, although unlikely to succeed, could attain a measure of viability. A basic condition would be if Trump, contrary to my predictions, survives all his legal quagmires and still wins the GOP presidential nomination.
Such Trump survival would result in the political alienation of millions of mainstream center-right Republicans, who could never vote for Trump yet would be unwilling to support the reelection of Joe Biden. These displaced Republicans, in the atmosphere of 2024, may be most receptive to a center-right independent presidential candidate.
Support from what I call “Club Bush” could substantially increase the viability of such a third party candidacy. I define “ Club Bush” as the network of former strong supporters and donors to the Presidential candidacies of George H. W. Bush (Bush 41) and George W.Bush (Bush 43) and those who served in either administration.
I am pleasantly reminded of my lifetime membership in Club Bush every December when I receive a holiday greeting card from George W. and Laura Bush or an invitation to a Bush alumni event. My lifetime Club Bush membership is a continuing benefit of my service in the administration of George W. Bush as Region 2 EPA Administrator.
Chris Christie is also a lifetime member of Club Bush, having served as US Attorney for the District of New Jersey under Bush 43. He still retains his Club Bush status, despite his having run for the GOP presidential nomination against former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2016.
The ability for Christie to retain his Club Bush membership is analogous to the fictional “Hotel California” in the Eagles song of the same name. As the lyrics recite, “You can check out (of Hotel California) any time you like, but you can never leave.” The same is true of Club Bush.
The stature of both Club Bush and George W. Bush have been substantially enhanced recently by the journalism of the highly renowned liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Formerly an outspoken critic of Bush 43, he now emphatically credits George W. Bush “for the single best policy of any president in my lifetime.” The program is PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief). PEPFAR saved 25 million lives.
It is a virtual certainty that Club Bush would never under any circumstances support the presidential election in 2024 of Donald Trump. They may well be inclined to support an independent center-right party candidate, if he or she is a member of Club Bush. There are two Club Bush members who could qualify for a presidential candidacy: Chris Christie or former Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Christie has two experience advantages that would qualify him over Cheney for a presidential candidacy. First, as Governor of New Jersey, he has previously served in a governmental chief executive role. Second, he has previously run for the presidency and is well familiar with the rigors of a campaign.
Yet what would ultimately make Christie a most attractive candidate as an independent center-right candidate are his supreme debating skills. He would eviscerate Trump and undoubtedly outperform Joe Biden in any debating format.
Would Christie be willing to run for the presidency in such an independent role, given the odds against success?
It is impossible to predict how Christie would react to such an opportunity. He might consider it more if he felt that he could make a credible showing. Such an outcome could preserve Christie’s White House aspirations for the future and foreclose any chance for another Republican winning the presidency in 2024.
Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.
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