On Tuesday in New Hampshire, former Gov. Chris Christie is expected to formally announce he’s entering the increasingly crowded 2024 Republican presidential primary field.
Could it be he feels remorse that on his recommendation, a sufficient number of Americans in 2016 voted for Donald Trump, so that he won the Electoral College vote and then four years later, after losing both the popular and Electoral College vote, incited a violent insurrection that continues to destabilize the United States to this very day?
Does he believe he can restore the good standing of his party that includes dozens of U.S. House members and U.S. Senators who voted against certifying the legitimate results of the 2020 Presidential election AFTER the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol?
And there’s little in his past performance that should encourage another run for the White House. Christie’s 2016 bid crashed and burned in New Hampshire. Despite his close to 200 visits to the state, he won less than 10 percent of that state’s primary voters.
While the rear-view mirror snapshot is hardly encouraging, the look at the road ahead provided by the most recent Monmouth University poll would appear to be even more discouraging.
According to Monmouth, former Vice President Mike Pence got a 46 percent favorability rating versus 35 percent unfavorability rating with the 655 Republicans the poll surveyed last month. By contrast, Christie “receives a decidedly negative rating (21 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable) and is the only contender of the ten tested in this poll who gets a net negative score from the Republican electorate.
Back in April, in an interview with Politico’s Rachel Bade, the former Governor positioned himself as the only candidate who would have the “balls” to take on former President Trump directly, a job Christie opined was best reserved for “somebody who knows him,” adding that “nobody” knew “Donald Trump better” than he does.
In his pre-announcement buzz, Christie insists he’s no mere 2024 spoiler but would be in the contest to win it.
“I’m not a paid assassin,” Christie told Politico. “When you’re waking up for your 45th morning at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manchester, you better think you can win, because that walk from the bed to the shower, if you don’t think you can win, it’s hard.”
At a relatively young looking 60, it’s his very busy brand that can’t afford to sit out 2024 on the sidelines. Win, lose or draw, by submitting himself to the 2024 red meat fray, he’ll get the windfall of what’s called earned free media. (In 2016, experts estimate Donald Trump raked in close to $5 billion worth of earned media.)
Christie has been working as a lobbyist and commentator for ABC News for the last several years. His Christie 55 Solutions firm, which offers an array of services, includes May Pat Christie, Rick Bagger, Bob Martin and Michele Brown, who is also the executive director of the Christie Institute for Public Policy, a 501c3 non-profit partnership with Seton Hall University.
Christie’s firm offers guidance in business strategies, crisis management, disaster response and guidance for environmental regulation, as well as insights for the financial services, gaming, healthcare, life sciences, utilities as well as transportation and infrastructure sectors.
And unlike so many of his Republican rivals, Christie can still get some Democrats to reach across the partisan divide to find some common ground in the spotlight like U.S. Sen. Cory Booker did back in April as a guest at Christie’s Institute.
Matt Arco with NJ.com, reported the pair “shared laughs, heaped praise on each other and talked about how to bring civility back to politics.” Previous Christie guests include Leon Panetta, a Democrat, and former Secretary of Defense during the Obama presidency as well as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).
This time out, Christie’s gotten some support from some very unlikely quarters.
As “the only potential contender with the guts to give Trump the thrashing he deserves, and the skill set to get it done. He’s made for this moment,” wrote Tom Moran, the Star Ledger’s Editorial Page editor recently. “To qualify for the debates, Christie needs one percent support in the polls, which he has, along with 40,000 individual donations, according to the draft rules. So, even if you can’t stand him, get ready to donate $1 as a patriotic duty when the clock starts ticking, after he announces.”
Moran reports that “Christie himself has vowed that he won’t vote for Trump, even if he is the GOP nominee.”
“I know, Christie helped create this monster in 2016 as the first major Republican to endorse Trump, and he stuck with Trump through his first term,” Moran recounts. “He prepped Trump for his debates with Joe Biden in 2020, long after it was clear that Trump was a racist, a liar, and an enemy of democracies worldwide. For that, Christie will have to answer to history.”
Christie may have lost the 2016 GOP primary, but in many ways, it was his role as chair of the Republican Governors’ Association back a decade ago, that laid the foundation for the Republican Party’s success at capturing dozens of state legislatures and Governorships in a rout of the Democratic Party that has had generational consequences that endure to this day.
When I was covering Christie at the 2012 Republican Convention in Tampa for WNYC it was the lobby of Christie’s hotel that felt like the heavy-gravity center of power for the Republican Party. In 2014, after his re-election, and beating of the Bridgegate rap, he was feted by the Republican Governor’s Association for netting in excess of $100 million for the party.
In 2023, as women see their reproductive freedoms radically curtailed across an increasing swath of America and voters of color see their access to the ballot increasingly restricted, they can thank Sen Booker’s friend Chris Christie who quarterbacked the GOP’s state level renaissance one race at a time.
It doesn’t matter if his brand is electable as long as it is bankable. Christie got great results for his party and the donors aren’t complaining either.
According to the Center For Responsive Politics in 2014 Exxon donated $750,000 to the Republican Governors Association. Other major energy sector donors included the Koch brothers Koch Industries which gave Christie’s RGA $4.25 million dollars.
That next year, Reuters reported “New Jersey’s long legal battle to recover $8.9 billion from Exxon Mobil Corp for environmental damage ended when Governor Chris Christie’s chief counsel, Christopher Porrino, cut a deal to settle for $250 million.”
Word of a deal came after the conclusion of an eight-month long trial after both sides wrote the presiding judge asking him to hold off on issuing a ruling because the two sides had reached an agreement.
Environmentalists and local elected officials, who had been tracking the litigation closely, expressed outrage over the deal which was widely expected to yield the state billions of dollars. “I grew up in the Bayway section of Elizabeth. The smell there was terrible but the stench this deal gives off is worse,” said State Senator Ray Lesniak during an interview. “$250 million dollars is just two weeks of profit for Exxon.”
For over a decade the state’s attorneys general under four governors, including Christie, aggressively pursued Exxon Mobil. Back in 2008 a state court judge ruled in the state’s favor holding Exxon-Mobil liable for the massive contamination of 1,500 acres in Hudson and Union counties. All that remained was to determine how much the state would be compensated.
The language of the 2008 ruling was powerful and set a strong legal foundation for what promised to be a substantial damages award. “It was estimated in 1977 that at least some seven million gallons of oil ranging in thickness from 7 to 17 feet, are contained in the soil and groundwater underlying a portion of the former Bayonne site alone,” wrote former Judge Ross R. Anzaldi. The level of hydrocarbon contamination was so high one creek was covered with “a gelatinous, oily emulsion overlying grey silt.”
The reported Exxon settlement came at a critical point in the history of the Newark Bay according to Dr. Angela Cristini, who taught biology at Ramapo College and studied the region for decades. Cristini credited billions of dollars invested in municipal sanitary sewers and declines in direct toxic discharges for bringing back oxygen and life back into these once dead waters. “There has been an amazing recovery in the Hackensack and even in Newark Bay,” Cristini said back in 2015.
How much more of an ecological recovery could Newark Bay have made if New Jersey had gotten those billions from Exxon in reclamation funds that just evaporated?
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