Christie Ready To Storm Trump's Beaches

[ Posted Tuesday, June 6th, 2023 – 15:58 UTC ]

Seventy-nine years ago today, the forces of the free world attacked the fascist Nazi regime in northern France. This year, the Ukrainian military is marking the anniversary of D-Day by starting their own counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces. Back here at home, Chris Christie will be announcing his bid to take on Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. There are obvious moral parallels that can be drawn between these events, but today we're going to leave that to others (for the most part).

Instead let's take a look at what Christie's chances are for either winning the nomination or at least successfully taking Donald Trump out of the running. Others are also examining this today, but from what I've read so far, most of them are getting a few things wrong in their analysis.

The first is a rather mundane issue. Everyone agrees that Christie's biggest impact will come in the GOP candidate debates. If both Christie and Trump are on the same stage, there will be fireworks. But that's still a pretty large "if." Most of the attention in the stories today has been on whether Christie will clear the hurdles the Republican National Committee has instituted for debate inclusion, but to me the biggest question is whether Trump will bother to show up -- to at least the first few debates.

There are a few reasons why Trump might not deign to grace the early GOP debates with his presence. The first is the risk/benefit ratio: how much good could Trump do for himself versus how much he might be hurt by participating? The upside to appearing in a debate might start looking pretty small to him if Trump is still commanding more than 50 percent support in the polls, plain and simple. Trump could sit them out and say: "I'll debate when they clear the nobodies from the stage," for instance. But the drawbacks to staying away are there too, as nobody ever knows how these debates will play out. Trump already has a few problems with the hosts and venues for the first two debates, so he's already got built-in reasons to skip them (without having to give any other reason or annoy the R.N.C. too much). Lastly, one of the R.N.C. hurdles is signing a pledge that would commit all the candidates participating to eventually backing the Republican nominee no matter who wins. Will Trump sign such a pledge? Or will he dare the R.N.C. to hold irrelevant debates without him (because he won't sign)? Surely the R.N.C. must know that a signed pledge by Donald Trump is about as meaningless a promise as can be imagined -- Trump's going to do whatever Trump feels like doing, and if he loses the nomination he will surely go ballistic in some direction or another, pledge or no pledge.

Today the attention is on Christie, though, with many pundits wondering whether Christie will meet two of the other R.N.C. debate hurdles: having at least 40,000 donors and having at least three national polls showing one percent support or better. Personally, I think Christie won't have any problem clearing both of these. He's already showing that level of support in many polls, and that was before he made it publicly known he would even be running. Hitting one percent won't be insurmountable for Christie now that he has made it official. As for the number of donors, other Republican candidates are already desperately courting voters to "send me a dollar," because the whole reason for the hurdle is to show support among small donors -- so there is no minimum donation which qualifies. If, a few weeks out from the first debate, Christie were somehow falling short of the 40,000 mark, how many Democrats would toss him a buck just to be able to see him take on Trump? My guess is: "More than enough!"

Would Christie have a chance? It's impossible to say, at this point. I would agree with most of the punditocracy in saying: "Probably not," but stranger things have indeed happened. Would Christie have the chance to undermine Trump enough for someone else (anyone else) to beat Trump? On that one I am much more optimistic. Nobody knows Trump's debate style better than Christie, and at this point nobody is positioned better to counter Trump's volcano of lies in real time. Please remember that in the 2020 election cycle, Donald Trump's debate-prep coach was none other than Christie himself. And Christie is unique among the Republican challengers in having a similar blustering, bullying style of campaigning as Trump.

There's another dynamic at play in all this that few pundits are willing to admit (or are just flat-out missing). Trump provides one thing to the Republican base more than anything else he does, and that is entertainment. That might seem crass, but then again Trump is king of the crass. Politics and entertainment have been crossing paths for years -- in fact one of the first columns I ever wrote asked why, given the liberal bent of Hollywood, Republican entertainers were so much more successful than Democratic ones (this was right before Arnold Schwarzenegger won a second term as California's governor, and the article ended with hopeful speculation that Al Franken would indeed run for Senate).

If Governator Ahh-nold (and, further north, Jesse Ventura's governorship in Minnesota) proved anything, it was that anybody with high name-recognition and a big fan base could become a successful modern politician. Trump was merely another iteration of this phenomenon, on a much larger stage.

There's a reason why Trump's most loyal followers don't really care what issues or policies Trump champions. Republican candidates trying to take Trump on by presenting themselves as better on policy truly don't understand this. Trump can do a flip-flop on any position that he's ever held and his followers will cheerfully follow right along with him. Trump's ideology might best be described as "mercurial," since it can never truly be pinned down. It is whatever Trump says it is on any given day. Which his supporters are just fine with.

Trump remains popular with his base because he is the master at "owning the libs," in the most vicious playground-bully style imaginable. When the facts don't back him up, he just makes up new ones that do. When liberals try to hit him back, he just laughs and changes the subject to something else. His speaking style is the snidest, rudest, sneering-est delivery possible. Trump only uses humor when he wants to eviscerate an opponent or some liberal idea -- it's pretty much the only time he ever smiles. And his fans love it. Trump takes the fight to his enemies, in true in-your-face bullying style. To his base MAGA supporters, it is the best entertainment they have ever seen.

No other Republican candidate even comes close. All the pundits talk about "lanes" to run in, but few identify Trump as dominating what might be called "the bully lane." The few that do acknowledge this aspect of the race are astonished that when you identify such a lane in the GOP, you have to put both Trump and his closest competitor into the same lane. Florida's governor Ron DeSantis is trying an interesting tactic, which is to run on competence in "owning the libs." DeSantis, in the political persona he has created, is a more effective Donald Trump.

In anyone else, this might be enough to dethrone Trump. However, DeSantis just does not seem up to the task. He has indeed shown competence in cruel and unnecessary legislation and political fights, even I have to admit. But he lacks the entertainment value of Trump himself. How many Trump fans are really going to accept DeSantis as a better version of Trump, when his stage presence is so woefully inferior to Trump's? DeSantis comes off as whiny and not comfortable in his own skin. His attacks on Trump, so far, have not been anywhere near as effective as he would have liked. Trump, on the other hand, comes off as supremely confident and able to make the crowd laugh at anyone he chooses, whenever he chooses.

However, Chris Christie has that same sort of delivery. Like DeSantis, Christie will present himself as a much more effective politician than Trump -- but Christie has chosen a much smarter persona. Christie knows -- even better than Trump, perhaps -- how to viciously put someone down and still get a laugh from the crowd while doing so. Christie has been practicing this persona for years, most recently on ABC News (where he would take on Donna Brazile on most Sunday mornings). He can be snide with a smile on his face. And also unlike DeSantis, Christie is unafraid of hitting Trump where he is most vulnerable: on his record of being a stone-cold loser. Christie is also unafraid of calling Trump on his delusional fantasies, countering Trump's made-up facts with actual reality. Christie, to be blunt, is a lot smarter than Trump -- and it shows.

If pretty much all of the world of young adult literature and afterschool specials are correct, the only way to stand up to a bully is to step on his toes and confront him head-on. Bullies all share the same deep-seated fear: they are terrified of people laughing at them. No other Republican running has the ability to make a crowd of Republican voters have a laugh at Trump's expense, but Christie just might be able to pull this feat off. His New Jersey brashness combined with being unafraid of calling Trump a loser and delusional to boot might just do the trick.

Of course, the pundits are probably correct that even if Christie were able to take Trump out at the knees, the Republican base would probably not reward him with the nomination. If Trump is taken down several pegs, some other candidate will probably emerge as a consensus instead. But so far, Christie seems like the best chance of weakening Trump in any way. This isn't guaranteed -- the pundits are also all correct in saying that if it does happen, it will happen during the debates. And there's no guarantee the two men will ever even face each other across a stage.

But long odds don't always guarantee failure either. Just ask the Ukrainians. Or Dwight D. Eisenhower, the night before D-Day. Sometimes storming the beaches actually carries the day. Sometimes underdogs win.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


5 Comments on “Christie Ready To Storm Trump's Beaches”

  1. [1] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Excellent focus on Christie's talents at counter-attacking Trump on the public stage.

    I'm sure you're right that the entertainment value of the GOP primary contest has just been upped. What I can't forget when I think of Christie is that media moment when he endorsed Trump in 2016, looking about as miserable, pathetic, and ineffective as any American politician has looked in public in a long time. I wonder if that star turn will feature in any of his opponents' ads this year, if he does manage to boost himself into a competitive slot by projecting bluster, self-confidence, and integrity?

  2. [2] 
    Kick wrote:


    Trump could sit them out and say: "I'll debate when they clear the nobodies from the stage," for instance.

    So Trump will sit out the debates and thereby voluntarily remove the biggest loser from the debate stage?

    Trump being such a self-serving, self-absorbed fame whore, it isn't exactly in his nature to do what would be best for either the GOP or America... so I'll believe it when I see it.

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:


    There's a reason why Trump's most loyal followers don't really care what issues or policies Trump champions.

    Lots of reasons:

    * Trump takes both/multiple sides of near every issue, and therefore the gullible believe he's on their side when actually he's an opportunist and has no real side, no core beliefs beyond doing or saying whatever benefits himself personally. It's why he cannot testify under oath without breaking the law... every single time.

    * Also, it's a grumble of mindless MAGAts... a cult of perpetually aggrieved snowflakes.

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:


    Two things from reliable source:

    * Mark Meadows has been proffered a limited grant of immunity and has come to an agreement to plead guilty to lesser multiple federal crimes.

    * Trump will be indicted soon on charges that include obstruction and violations under the Espionage Act.

    I'm getting my popcorn ready now... just in case this is true.

  5. [5] 
    Kick wrote:

    ^^^^^ FULL DISCLOSURE ^^^^^

    I won't believe a word of that until I see it.

Comments for this article are closed.