As Chris Christie prepares for the biggest speech of his political life, it’s inevitable that we would speculate on what’s next for him. To me, it seems that he lusts for higher office, and the timing will depend on the outcome of the November election.
Even though he hitched his wagon to the Romney campaign early in the election cycle, a Romney loss would not harm Christie’s ambitions. After all, the little-known Senator from Illinois who delivered the keynote at John Kerry’s coronation did pretty well for himself. Given Romney’s hard right turn, an Obama victory would send a clear message to the GOP – the extremists may be able to win primaries to place candidates on the ballot, but a rightward swing on the national scale is not a winning tactic. Since there are few moderates left within the glitterati of the GOP, a Romney loss would be welcomed by Christie for a 2016 run for the White House.
Some schaudenfreudistic Christie-hating Democrats posit that the problems that Christie is foisting on New Jersey will sabotage his political ambitions. Not so. Even as New Jersey lags the national recovery, this won’t be an issue in a presidential run. People have short memories, and consider that a different Governor’s accomplishment – Romneycare – isn’t even on the radar screen for this election. So regardless of what Christie does between now and the end of his term, style is more important than substance. Like it or not, Christie is the master of style while failing at substance.
Christie has already said that he will serve out his term as governor (through January 2014) and would not take a cabinet post in a (God forbid) Romney administration. But if he does complete his term in Trenton, there’s a possibility that he could be nominated by a President Romney as Attorney General then (after Romney’s first AG, a Bain crony, is indicted for sleazy dealings?) or even be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court (remember Harriet Miers?)
If Barack Obama is elected to a second term, the dynamics change. If the GOP is smart, they would nurture more moderates, giving Christie’s 2016 ambitions a run for its money. If Christie runs for re-election as governor, would he make a pledge to serve out his entire second term? If he loses the gubernatorial race, it would be a setback, but not the end of his presidential ambitions (remember the guy who lost the race for governor of California in 1962?)
The other possibility is that Christie is not using this keynote speech as a steppingstone to the White House, but rather as an audition tape for a lucrative job at Fox “News.” This would be the culmination of the other audition tapes he has made – his taxpayer-funded YouTube moments – and would solidify his credentials as an entertainer rather than as a statesmen. Given the dearth of news carried by Murdoch’s mouthpieces, this would be the perfect gig for our consummate entertainer.