It’s been nearly two years now since the Bridgegate scandal pulled the rug out from underneath New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s presidential ambitions, and in that time there has been no shortage of Christie Comebacks. They happen less often than they used to, but there are still pundits and reporters who manage to convince themselves, based on really nothing more than gut feeling, that Christie is primed and ready to vault back into serious contention for the White House. The fact that it still hasn’t happened after so many false alarms does nothing to quell their enthusiasm.
As MSNBC’s Steve Benen noted last week, Politico recently ran a story headlined “Chris Christie returns from the dead.” They argued that finally – finally! – Christie’s campaign was “showing a pulse,” based on one not-terrible Wall Street Journal/NBC poll of New Hampshire and the fact that he’d picked up a few endorsements in Iowa. And now we have Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin arguing that Christie could be the “dark horse” candidate in New Hampshire and could follow the trail carved by John McCain in 2008.
So what’s Rubin’s rationale for Christie’s “dark horse” status?
He has moved up a bit in polls in New Hampshire, is consistently in the state and will have another chance to make an impression at the debate next week. His two previous debate performances were quite strong.
Christie actually hasn’t “moved up a bit” in New Hampshire. He had that one WSJ/NBC poll from late September that put him at 7 percent. Every poll since then has put him at 3-5 percent; he’s only climbed above 5 percent once since early August. The polling averages show he’s still sliding ever closer to the x-axis in the Granite State. And that sort of undermines Rubin's next point about the debates – even if you agree that his two previous performances were “strong,” they haven’t helped him in the polls, so what reason do we have to think the next debate will be any different?
Rubin also argues:
He has put the bridge flap behind him and now can boast that he put himself out to answer questions for 90 minutes when the story broke — in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s penchant for secrecy and prevarication.
As Rubin was writing this, Clinton was in the midst of an 11-hour interrogation before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, so maybe the contrast with Christie’s 90 minutes of question-answering isn’t that impressive. And since we’re discussing Christie’s transparency regarding Bridgegate, I should note that the lawyer Christie hired to investigate whether Christie did anything wrong is fighting legal efforts to impel him to disclose information related to interviews he conducted as part of his investigation. In fighting this disclosure, Christie’s lawyer recently explained that no notes were taken during those interviews because – and I’m not making this up – the media were making “intense” inquiries into the bridge scandal.
We also have to reckon with the fact that this is not the first time that Rubin has spied a Christie revival on the horizon. Over the course of Christie’s political skid, she’s argued that the good governor has turned the page, moved on, rebounded, had “a comeback of sorts,” had a potential comeback, had another comeback, and had still another comeback before arriving at his current designation of “dark horse” in waiting.
I suppose the strategy for Rubin and the rest of the pundit world is to just keep predicting that the Christie Comeback is nigh with the assumption that maybe, at some point, they’ll luck out.