Chris Christie’s time spent in New Hampshire is paying off, with the former New Jersey governor making a decent showing in the polls ahead of the key early state primary. Which is why, according to his own logic, he should drop out.
The latest poll out of the Granite State from CNN and New Hampshire University has Donald Trump’s lead over Nikki Haley down to seven points, 39-32. That is consistent with the general pattern over the past several weeks: Haley has been gaining ground and is within striking distance of the frontrunner. As it happens, Christie is at 12 in that poll.
With two weeks to go until the primary, Christie insists he’s staying in the game. In fact, his advertising strategy is aimed at arresting the rise of Haley, specifically. ABC reports that in the ad, titled “The Truth,” Christie calmly looks into the camera and says, “Most of the other candidates in this race are all trying to look into people’s eyes and figure out what they want to hear. I’m looking into people’s eyes and knowing that the truth is ultimately what they need to hear and what they deserve to hear.”
Though he doesn’t name Haley in the spot, his campaign made sure, in passing along the ad to ABC first, that their target was clear. “Christie has always been willing to tell the truth regardless of what people may think. This is a stark contrast from Haley who today refused to tell voters the truth about Trump,” a spokesman told the network.
And what is the truth about Trump? Well, in Christie’s own words: “This is an angry, bitter man who now wants to be back as president because he wants to exact retribution on anyone who has disagreed with him, anyone who’s tried to hold him to account for his own conduct, and every one of these policies that he’s talking about are about pursuing a plan of retribution.”
In this context, where the third-place finisher might get a vote share larger than the difference between the winner and the runner-up, it’s pretty clear what Christie would advise that third-place candidate to do. To be sure, voter preferences are trickier than this hypothetical makes them sound, and there is no way to know exactly where Christie’s votes would go if he dropped out. But Christie is an unusual candidate in the GOP and voters who like Christie are unlikely to have Trump as their backup. Christie’s entire candidacy is predicated on the idea that Trump must be stopped because he is, alone among the candidates, a threat to the republic.
Which is to say: Chris Christie’s rationale for running is an argument for dropping out. Christie gained a decent portion of voters in a crucial state while also outlasting other also-rans, so there aren’t many other choices for voters left. If he drops out and is able to help the candidate ahead of him defeat Trump, his candidacy would look like a Rube Goldberg contraption that worked exactly as designed.
He would, in fact, retain some bragging rights over the many who did not see a practical point to his candidacy at all. And if that changes the momentum of the race nationally, Christie might come off looking like a genius.
But often politics is much simpler than that. Politicians are human too, and they don’t usually jump at the chance to fold up their hopes and dreams just to be a team player.
It’s worth remembering that Christie chose sanctimony of his own free will. No one made him get in the race and accuse everyone else of being a coward. It is not unreasonable to hold someone to their own standard.
Again, there is no guarantee that Christie’s dropping out would change anything. Trump isn’t exactly struggling with GOP primary voters nationally. He’s not some creation of a former governor; he’s the party’s most recent president of the United States. But it is interesting that while every path for a non-Trump candidate was and remains a long shot, if you asked 10 people to draw up what that long shot path would actually look like, nine out of 10 would give you the same answer.
That lone dissenting voice would belong to Chris Christie.