Mr. Christie has been called a lot of things, but until Wednesday’s debate performance, “barely there” was not among them.
In eight minutes of speaking time, Mr. Christie said little of substance. (By N.Y. Times standard whose editors have so substance at all.)
As for his parting pitch that he’s “deadly serious about changing this culture” of government, well, his constituents in New Jersey know better.
The point is that New Jersey is in trouble, and the governor is off pursuing a presidential run that’s turned out to be nothing more than a vanity project. Mr. Christie’s numbers are in the basement, and he’s nearly out of campaign cash. This is his moment, all right: to go home and use the rest of his term to clean out the barn, as Speaker John Boehner would say. (His debate outing certainly helped him)
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Mr. Christie emerged as a national politician because his constituents saw him as a leader who put New Jersey first. His state battered by Hurricane Sandy and his party riven by the Tea Party, he sought needed federal assistance, and if that meant embracing a Democratic president, so what. “So what?” was a positive Christie characteristic back then. One could disagree with his methods, but he managed to make his efforts on behalf of his state seem sincere.
It must have been rough for those who re-elected him to see him hold forth Wednesday in a debate that centered on the national economy, when he’s been a net failure on the New Jersey economy. On his watch, one of the per-capita richest states in the nation has become one of its biggest laggards in economic growth, its budget woes prompting an appalling series of credit downgrades. Mr. Christie’s promises, from fixing the state’s pensions shortfall to its infrastructure, have come to less than nothing. More galling still is that he was not the only such politician on the dais. Since when does shortchanging your home state — looking at you, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal — qualify a public servant to be president?
It has been four months since Mr. Christie, both eyes blackened by Bridgegate, jumped into the presidential ring. After months spent in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’s in 11th place, his support among likely Republican primary voters hovering between nobody and 4 percent. His most recent quarterly contributions totaled $4.2 million, compared with $20.1 million for Ben Carson and $13.4 million for Jeb Bush. Half of Christie’s vaunted “leadership team” of New Jersey politicos didn’t give him a dime.