Last night, Fox Business Network announced the line-up for the 2016 Republican primary it’s hosting next week, and as was widely expected, New Jersey governor Chris Christie got booted from the main stage. He and Mike Huckabee didn’t clear the minimum threshold for inclusion – 2.5 percent average support in recent national polling – so they’ll be joining Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal at the undercard debate. These demotions are embarrassing, and they also may come with significant costs. Rick Perry said that his failure to make the primetime debates killed his fundraising, which ultimately forced him to drop out of the 2016 race.
As such, Christie’s demotion is being taken very hard by the people who love him the most and form his primary support network: cable news pundits. Specifically, the pundits who populate MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” who are on the record describing themselves as “friends of Chris Christie” and “champions of Chris Christie.” News that their friend and champion fell short was met with shock and indignation on this morning’s program:
I completely agree that the criteria for inclusion in these debates aren’t all that great, but this is what everyone agreed to, and Christie didn’t make the cut this time. But let’s examine Joe Scarborough’s argument for why the rules should not apply to his friend Chris Christie:
- Christie has had a good week
- Christie has a “video out that is viral”
- Christie is in the “top tier” in New Hampshire, “the most important primary”
- Christie is “moving faster up to the top than any other candidate”
Numbers one and two have nothing to do with anything. The first is a more subjective and less quantifiable metric than the poll numbers used by Fox Business, and the second is just something Joe Scarborough is impressed by. Numbers three and four, however, are rooted in something a little more concrete, and they’d be more persuasive arguments if either of them were true.
Christie’s polling average in New Hampshire, depending on which aggregator you choose to believe, is somewhere around 4 percent – good enough for eighth place in a field of fourteen. The best poll he’s had in New Hampshire in the past three months put him at a whopping 8 percent. Even if you choose to believe that poll and discard all the rest, that still puts him in the middle of the pack and behind actual top-tier candidates Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio.
Which leads us to Scarborough’s last point: Christie’s alleged meteoric rise in the polls. Where is the evidence of this? What poll has him “moving fast to the top?” And isn’t he already supposed to be at the top in New Hampshire? His national polls are trash, he’s hardly registering in Iowa and doing even worse in South Carolina. But Joe Scarborough’s got it into his head that Christie is on an undeniable upward trajectory, and thus should absolutely be on the main stage for the debates.
Even more amusing is Scarborough’s obvious annoyance that Rand Paul (barely) made the cut for the primetime debate while Christie didn’t. “You have Rand Paul who has literally sold 500 books in the first two weeks of his publication!” Oh my god! Why are they even letting this no-book-selling loser run for president?
So, per the Morning Joe analysis, the debate selection criteria is blinkered because it doesn’t take into account viral videos, imaginary poll numbers, and book sales. What Scarborough really wants is for his good pal Chris Christie to be treated with the respect and dignity he feels Christie is owed, regardless of whether anyone actually supports him in the Republican primary.
The good news for Christie is that, per the Morning Joe panel’s expert analysis, being kicked off isn’t a bad thing – as a matter of fact, it’s a good thing! And it might even be the start of the frequently predicted, but never realized, Christie Comeback. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt him as much as some people do,” said the always-correct Mark Halperin. “He does have a fundraising problem and he needs to keep that together, but I think right now… this is not something that’s going to stop Chris Christie’s presidential campaign. I think he may be able to turn it to his advantage.”
So congrats, Chris Christie. Whatever happens and whatever the polls say, you’re already the president of “Morning Joe’s” heart.