Chris Christie thinks that he changed the state of the race on Saturday. Maybe he did, maybe he did not; time will yet tell. If in person events are any indicator, Rubio’s rise hasn’t been slowed as much as Christie would like to believe, as he still drew larger than expected crowds yesterday, including one that overflowed the larger venue the campaign had moved to at the last minute.
That would seem to suggest that people in New Hampshire are not buying the hype about the rough opening to Rubio’s debate as much as the media who is peddling it.
It’s entirely possible, though, that Christie may have slowed or stalled Rubio’s national rise in the polls. Obviously, it’s far too soon to tell, but when the results roll in tomorrow night, we may be looking at a race that is fundamentally changed.
What is clear, though, is that, even if Christie accomplished this, he has done so with no benefit to himself. Even the media outlets that are most critical of Rubio’s debate performance are not praising Christie, because he also objectively had a terrible debate performance. After knocking Rubio for repeating himself, he spent the rest of the debate repeating himself. I counted on twitter and he said “former federal prosecutor” or its equivalent five times. He said “this is what’s wrong with Washington” three times (after saying it at least five times in every previous debate).
After all was said and done, Christie looked petty and un-Presidential, as he spent the first 90 minutes of the debate butting in after every Rubio answer, even when he wasn’t mentioned or called on, to make a snarky or sarcastic remark.
When the votes are tallied tomorrow, Christie will find himself behind not only Rubio, but also Cruz, Jeb, Kasich, and Trump. Christie is too far behind, and was still overshadowed to avoid finishing 5th or worse tomorrow. While he said yesterday that he “sees a way forward,” all he really has is a way to continue helping Trump.
I don’t at all blame Christie for what he did last night; the man is trying to win, after all. But at the end of the day American history – and Republican voters in general – will remember him for two things: hugging Obama in the closing moments of the 2012 campaign, and for a kamikaze attack on Marco Rubio. If Christie had been as competent as he portrays himself on a debate stage, it wouldn’t have had to be this way. But for better or worse, Saturday will almost certainly be remembered as Christie’s last gasp on the national stage.