The Republican Party put all of their 2016 eggs in the Christie basket. Now the basket has George Washington Bridge size hole, Hillary Clinton has opened up an 8 point lead and Republicans are panicking.
The first whiff of GOP panic came from a recent New York Times story,
Of all the new realities that Mr. Christie must confront, perhaps the most humbling is a sense of losing the momentum that surrounded him just a few months ago. Last year, the governor’s staff had begun building up his foreign policy bona fides, quietly reaching out to Brian H. Hook, a Republican foreign policy expert who worked at the United Nations for President George W. Bush, and started planning his international trip.
Asked whether the trip is still on, Mr. Christie’s adviser William J. Palatucci responded: “It’s all to be determined.”
Inside the Republican Party, the once constant talk of Mr. Christie’s path to the White House has quieted. “I think anything about a 2016 deal, at this point, is on the back burner,” said Ray Washburne, the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.
The panic grew after Christie’s disastrous fundraising trip to Florida, where instead of moving on from the scandals, he was so besieged that he had to hide out and avoid the media and the public.
The results of the latest Quinnipiac poll should turn the panic into a full blown inferno as Hillary Clinton has opened up an eight point lead on Christie. The December Quinnipiac poll was one the few that was friendly to the Republican cause, so the GOP has been beating this poll into the ground. But the January poll revealed that Christie is being immensely damaged by the scandals.
Christie went from being in a statistical tie with Clinton last month to trailing the former Sec. of State 46%-38% today. The scandals are destroying Christie with Independents. He has gone from leading Clinton 47%-32% to trailing 41%-40%. The percentage of respondents who think that he would make a good president has plunged from 49% in December to 35% today.
Republicans know that they don’t have another candidate that come close to Clinton in any way. The same Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton leading Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush all by double digits. The Republican establishment is behind Christie. The big Republican money is behind Christie. The RNC changed the party’s nominating process to benefit Christie, and now the New Jersey governor is being undone by scandals that highlight his temperament issues.
Christie’s image and reputation are being severely damaged by these scandals. His brand as a blue collar, tough talking governor who gets things done has been replaced by the image of a petty vindictive bully. Once a candidate has been negatively defined for the electorate, it is nearly impossible to change that image. It is this reality that Republicans have yet to face.
Chris Christie is damaged goods just like Mitt Romney was damaged goods. The Republican establishment may go through with their plan to nominate Christie. If they do, they will find out that it doesn’t matter how the investigations turn out. The damage has already been done, and Republicans may end up stuck with another fatally flawed candidate who has virtually no chance of winning.
The idea of Christie beating Clinton has always seemed like a dubious Republican pipe dream, but never did the GOP think that they would be spending 2014 watching their only viable candidate go up in smoke.