The opening shots of the 2016 campaign have already begun with Teapublican presidential candidate Rand Paul blasting Christie for those self-promotional TV ads about Sandy. My guess is that as polls show Christie with a lead over other GOP contenders, the sniping will continue and even increase. There is nothing dirtier and nasty than a GOP primary, partly because there is little difference on issues so candidates tend to differentiate themselves based on personal issues and ethical conduct, and on that basis I believe Rand Paul has more than enough ammo to go after Christie
Although Buono’s loss was disappointing, there are a lot of silver linings to be had. Christie is a lame duck, and a very weak lame duck without coattails as I am sure Rand Paul and other GOP opponents will attack him for being all show and no substance. In fact, I won’t be surprised if at some point national GOP leaders start looking around for a moderate alternative who doesn’t carry as much personal baggage (Scott Brown maybe?). The end result is that Christie will need Democrats more than Democrats need him. Without Democrats there will be no tax cuts, and without tax cuts Christie has no record to campaign on. I mean, without tax cuts what issue does Christie have to campaign on against his Tea Party opponents? If he can’t deliver tax cuts in his own state, how does he have any credibility promising tax cuts at the federal level?
Finally, I will be very surprised if Christie campaigns in Iowa. He can’t be that stupid, though I expect he’ll make a few trips there the next year or so just to keep people guessing. As a caucus state the voters who tend to show up usually represent more the extreme wing of either political party. And look at the history, this is a state that gave Pat Robertson second place in 1988 (after Bob Dole who lost that year anyway) ahead of George Bush, who went on to win the nomination and the general election. Ironically, Bush won in Iowa in 1980, but then lost to Reagan in New Hampshire. And of course we all know who won the 2012 Iowa caucuses, President Rick Santorum. My guess is Christie will make his stand in New Hampshire, where voters are more concerned about economic issues than they are about gay marriage and abortion, and which is all the more reason why Christie has to deliver on tax cuts if he wants to be taken seriously in that state. I’m assuming Sweeney and other Democratic leaders believe this as well, and will be able to extract concessions they otherwise would not be able to get. At this point I am tempted to joke that I hope Sweeney squeezes Christie so hard that . . . but I won’t.