Last October, the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s biggest newspaper, stunned the state by running a wholehearted endorsement of Governor Chris Christie for reelection. Much has happened since then, most notably a political scandal that has attracted federal attention, and now the newspaper laments its endorsement.
“We blew this one,” writes the paper’s Tom Moran. He goes on to state, “Yes, we knew Christie was a bully. But we didn’t know his crew was crazy enough to put people’s lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor.” In what amounts to more of a series of excuses than an outright revocation of the endorsement, the paper explains that their endorsement attempted to be scathing enough concerning the issues on which they disagreed with Christie–including his “Tea Party approach to the environment”–and that endorsing the Governor was a split decision among staff. They did it, nonetheless, because Christie had “made good progress on education,” and there were no viable alternatives.
Moran is even harsher on Democratic opponent Barbara Buono than he is on Christie for the many scandals plaguing his administration. Noting that Buono was “not up to the job,” Moran chides her campaign retroactively for “embrac[ing] the state’s regressive teachers’ union and its relentless efforts to protect bad teachers,” but one gets the sense that Moran is chiding her for cornering the newspaper into endorsing Christie. He notes that even in endorsing him, the paper’s editors “knew what a creep he can be.” Moran even confesses that watching Christie’s demise is “delicious,” the only reservation being the paper’s contribution to his reelection.
Moran concludes with the real reasoning behind this self-flagellating column: he seems to think Christie still has a chance of winning the 2016 nomination because of a clear disdain and apprehension towards the Tea Party. “If one of the Tea Party favorites gets the Republican nomination,” he writes, “then the country is at risk.” He cites a situation in which Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, is destroyed by a scandal of her own, and Sen. Rand Paul wins the presidency. In that case, Moran confesses, he would endorse Christie again, pleading with readers to forgive a repeat of the logic that led to the paper’s endorsement of Christie for governor last year.
In the Star-Ledger’s original endorsement of Christie, the editorial board wrote that he was “overrated” and a “catastrophe” on the environment, but proceeded to tear into Buono as an obstructionist whose support for the teachers’ unions not only found opposition from Republicans like Christie, but from President Obama. Despite its liberal reputation, the Star-Ledger has been highly critical of teachers’ unions, and, in this way, found itself allied with the interests of the Christie administration. The endorsement continues to essentially call the Democratic Party of the state cowards for “punting” on the race and sending Buono to the slaughter, rather than running then-Mayor Cory Booker or any number of potentially more successful candidates.
The newspaper has been vocally critical of Christie from the start, but it has, in recent weeks, escalated its disapproval. The Ledger joined the chorus of voices calling for Christie to step down from the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association to focus on fixing the state’s problems. Also, it began to chide the Governor–long before BridgeGate–for spending too much time courting Republican elites for 2016 and not enough time in New Jersey. The Star-Ledger did not endorse Christie during his first run for the governorship, instead filing a protest vote for independent candidate Christopher Daggett, something they argued was “less a rejection of Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie than a repudiation of the parties they represent.”