Is Chris Christie’s ‘Bubble’ About to Burst?

AP Photo/Mel Evans
AP Photo/Mel Evans
Trenton, NJ

Calling it a ‘bubble’ around him, the New York Times reports that a fair number of one-time supporters of New Jersey Gov Chris Christie are either frustrated with the potential national candidate’s seemingly out of touch political team or have already moved on to other potential options for 2016.

However one applies a ‘bubble’ analogy to Christie’s political operation, it does appear as though it’s going to have to burst — either out to take on a significant and growing amount of negative press, or in upon itself, taking any hope Christie may have had of winning the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination with it.

“He does not return phone calls. He does not ask for support. He arrives late for meetings. And he acts as if he has all the time in the world,” claims the report.

The complaints have piled up for weeks, dismaying many longtime supporters of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and sending others into the arms of his rivals for the presidential nomination, according to interviews with more than two dozen Republican donors and strategists.

At the same time, using at least some of the same information, the Washington Post offers this report. What seems clear from the two Christie hit pieces in key national publications is that, just as Team Jeb may be trying to make inroads into Christie’s list of potential donors, sources close to Jeb are also very likely making a media push to help to undercut Christie.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is rapidly losing support among some of his most prominent home-state donors and power brokers, who are either hesitant to back him or shifting allegiance to former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Bush’s aggressive moves to lock up the Republican Party’s premier fundraisers threaten to undercut the Garden State governor before his expected campaign can get off the ground, while raising questions about how robust of a network of support Christie will be able to muster.

Bush has stopped short of directly confronting Christie by holding a fundraiser on his home turf. But behind the scenes, he has been quietly wooing, via e-mail, a cadre of high-profile Christie backers, including a group that attended a private dinner with Bush at New York’s Union League Club in January.

The very real problem for Christie is, the criticism does not seem unfounded and if the conventional wisdom becomes the once bright shining star of establishment Republican politics was a shooting one, with his chance to win the GOP nomination now looking shot, it will become a self-fulfilling process and Christie will only continue to fall away as Bush and other rivals continue to gain visibility and speed at his expense.

What with the inclusion of past Christie supporters like Tom Kean, Sr. and Lawrence Bathgate in the Washington Post report makes it look as though Team Jeb has the Post’s political reporters on speed dial to dump on Christie. And it may well have.

Former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean Sr., a longtime mentor of Christie who is no longer close to him, said in an interview Thursday that he hasn’t decided whom to back — while offering praise for Bush.

“When [Bush] said he has strong views on issues and won’t change them to win an early primary, it showed me he has real convictions,” Kean said. “The Republican Party in the past has had problems with people who changed their views in order to win a primary, only to have to scramble back in a general election. Voters don’t find that kind of behavior credible.”

Another former Christie ally, New Jersey attorney Lawrence E. Bathgate II, hosted the Jan. 8 dinner in New York to introduce Bush to some of Christie’s top supporters.

Bathgate had been in Christie’s camp for years, but their relationship publicly soured after Christie’s administration pursued a plan to build protective dunes on the state’s coastline where Bathgate has an oceanfront home.

At the same time, in both the Post and New York Times’ items, there are influential players standing with Christie. This below, for example, is from the NYT’s. What Christie can’t afford is for any significant trend away from him to continue, let alone grow.

Mr. Christie is hardly without big-name support. In the coming weeks, he will attend fund-raisers around the country hosted by a number of prominent Republicans, including Meg Whitman, the chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, and Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader, who is now an investment banker.

“The fact is, there is not a finite pool of donors as some seem to suggest,” said Mike DuHaime, a top adviser to Mr. Christie.

“Some guys move from Christie to Bush? That’s politics,” said Kenneth G. Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot and Mr. Christie’s leading supporter among New York donors.

Mr. Langone said he had been raising money for Mr. Christie’s new leadership PAC at a healthy clip, with many checks coming from big donors outside of Mr. Christie’s base in New York and New Jersey. “I’ve never had anyone say no,” Mr. Langone said.

The governor and his advisers have dismissed some defections with an air of almost imperious unconcern. Asked about the embrace of Mr. Bush by Mr. Johnson, who has hosted the governor numerous times in his Jets owner’s box, a person close to Mr. Christie brushed it aside by describing Mr. Johnson as a disgruntled team owner who got sweeter subsidies under Mr. Christie’s predecessors.