Why Christie Might Appoint Booker to the Senate (or Rabbi Shmuley)

With the sad news that Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has passed away at the age of 89, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has a fateful choice to make as he exercises his power to appoint a new Senator to the vacant seat.

Lautenberg, a WWII veteran, is being mourned today by both parties for his decades of service to the country:

Christie, a Republican, could make an impact on ongoing national debates by appointing a fellow party member to the seat through November or 2014. (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach should certainly be on the short list.) Doing so might also help him make amends with his party, which is unhappy with Christie’s recent penchant for cozying up to Obama, and for accepting Obamacare’s Medicaid funding, among several other grievances.

However, it is possible that Christie might buck partisan expectations and appoint the man who is already the state’s most prominent Senate contender: Newark mayor, and Democrat, Corey Booker. Doing so would put Booker in place to be re-elected in 2014, and perhaps even to launch a presidential run in 2016 or 2020.

Christie would certainly win some applause from across the political aisle. But he might also take some of the edge off Booker’s appeal by making it seem that he owed his federal office to the governor’s good graces. That impression could be erased by a Booker win in 2014–but might linger. An appointment might also persuade Booker to stay out of upcoming presidential races on which Christie might already have set his own sights.