You don’t me to tell you this has been a strange election season. What has been most interesting is the calculations the various candidates are making on who to attack and how to go about it. Early on, Donald Trump went after Jeb Bush. I suspect that Trump thought that Bush was going to be his main competitor and decided to take him out before his fundraising apparatus and Super PACs became an insurmountable challenge. Ted Cruz has maintained a low profile for the most part in the scrum. He was criticized (I must admit I still don’t understand this) for not attacking Donald Trump when the reason was obvious: when Trump begins to flag, and we all suspect he will, Cruz wants to be the logical home for the lion’s share of those voters. Cruz and Marco Rubio have been engaged in a low level skirmish, one that Rubio’s folks advertised in POLITICO, over immigration. Rubio is trying to inoculate himself to a charge of being weak on amnesty by bringing Cruz’s record into question and also creating a home for some of those Trump voters.
Recent polling in New Hampshire, and today by Quinnipiac, has opened up a new front in the candidate wars. Chris Christie versus [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]. The New Hampshire polling has shown Christie competing with Rubio for third place. Today’s Quinnipiac shows Christie gaining on Rubio and, because Carson is in a downward trajectory, has slid into fourth place nationally. If you believe that Trump will not be in the race until the end, then it is a three-man race between Cruz, Rubio and Christie.
Christie has a lot of logical growth potential (even for a big man). As Pataki and Kasich and Bush and Fiorina fail, Christie is a very attractive home for them. They are basically establishment voters who are disenchanted with Jeb Bush for whatever reason. So you can see Christie displacing Rubio for second place if the cards fall right.
The Christie campaign has been watching the Cruz-Rubio scuffle and they know that Rubio’s Achilles heel is his involvement in the Gang of Eight amnesty bill. Yesterday, on Greta Van Susteren’s show on FoxNews, Christie announced that on immigration he was basically Ted Cruz… and Marco Rubio was still [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ].
“Never a path to citizenship. No one who comes here, knowingly, illegally, should be rewarded with the greatest possession that anyone can have, and that’s an American passport, it just shouldn’t happen. And we can’t even begin to talk about legalization until we secure the border.”
Watch the whole interview or just skip to 3:00 for the lead in to the immigration comments.
Now, if this sounds strange, it is because it is. Via Allahpundit:
Incidentally, Christie’s adamant opposition to a path to citizenship — no one who breaks our laws should be rewarded with an American passport, he intones — is, as far as I can tell, brand new. Back in 2010, when his star was rising on the right, he called for a “common sense path to citizenship.” CNN asked him about that this past July and, amid some hedging about how illegals don’t come here to vote, he stood by those earlier comments. Over the last few months in New Hampshire, he’s been reiterating that people cross the border to work, not to become citizens, which I guess he was hoping would distract voters from pestering him about where he stands on citizenship. Finally, with Trump way out in front in New Hampshire and Rubio blocking his path, he’s given in. “Never” will I agree to a path to citizenship, he says now. Score one for Trumpmania.
Today, Christie was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and he went after Rubio directly.
Chris Christie slammed Marco Rubio on Tuesday for missing last week’s vote on the omnibus spending bill, arguing that it highlights a distinct difference between the two candidates vying for the Republican nomination.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” from Portsmouth, Christie said he’s got much stronger leadership skills being a governor in Newark as opposed to a senator in Washington.
“When you’re governor of New Jersey, you don’t like spending, you use the line-item veto and you line-item it out and you make the argument to people. You show up and get the job done,” he said. “This is an important position. You say you oppose spending but you do nothing about it. That should tell people something about what kind of effective leader someone might be. You have to figure out ways to do it. He should have shown up on the floor and made his case to his colleagues against that bill if he was so opposed to it. He didn’t, and that is a huge substantive difference between us.”
Earlier in the interview, co-host Mika Brzezinski asked Christie, who was sitting in his campaign bus, if there had been “any sightings” of Rubio in New Hampshire, giving Christie the opportunity to tout his campaign’s presence in the state ahead of the Feb. 9 primary.
“No, no. We’ve been looking for Marco, but we can’t find him. We’ve had the bus all over New Hampshire. We haven’t been able to find him. We understand he did a very quick town hall here and then left to go back to Madison Avenue in New York,” Christie said.
The last part of that is using the meme that is beginning to stick to Rubio, that he doesn’t think retail campaigning is important.
So while the Rubio camp is out playing five dimensional chess in changing voters perception of Ted Cruz from outsider and bomb-thrower to “craven insider”, Christie is engaging Rubio on his weakest areas.
Christie knows he is not competing for Cruz voters and probably suspects that when Trump melts down that if he, Christie, is in the race that a lot of people who are attracted to Trump’s take-no-prisoners style will come his way IF they are mollified on the subject of immigration. Bush, Kasich, etc. are basically non-entities. So Rubio is the guy who is holding the piggy-bank of votes ready for the taking AND Christie has to believe that ultimately he, much more than Cruz, will be acceptable to the GOP establishment.