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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Christie’s Meltdown Likely a Mixed Blessing for Dems

Gov. Christie’s collapse, soon to be reflected in polls, provides Democrats with an unexpected meme along the lines of “See, even the more moderate Republicans do dirty tricks and don’t care that they create hardships for and endanger their constituents.” Dems can’t be blamed for savoring his meltdown, especially since Christie had topped Hillary in a recent poll.
As one who thought Christie’s act would probably wear thin by 2016 for different reasons (bluster gets tiresome after a while), however, I’m thinking maybe Dems should restrain their jubilation and see how this plays out. Work it, sure. But don’t do the happy dance quite yet.
For one thing Christie’s continued rise would likely have divided his party even more, which is a good thing for Dems, strategically. There are no “moderate” Republicans waiting in the wings to fill the vacuum and exacerbate the divisions, unless Huntsman suddenly grows the chops to score significant primary victories. Rand Paul will make a loud play, but he carries a lot of racist and anti-blue collar worker baggage. Huckabee will try to fill the void, but there’s a reason he got little traction on his last outing. The GOP field now has an opening for a dark horse.
The upside of Christie’s debacle for Democrats is nonetheless substantial. I would be very surprised if the voters of NJ didn’t sour on him and his party. It reminds voters who admired his ‘straight-talking’ style that style can be a facade. He’s now more frequently likened to Nixon than John Wayne. The Christie persona will not be replicated for a while at least. It looks an awful lot like a permanent stain — it may be that the longer he stays in office, the better for Democrats.
Most voters will tell you that both parties have scandals and moral lapses, and Democrats have their share of messes. But can anybody who knows Democratic leaders imagine their staff people being stupid/evil enough to tie up a major city and endanger lives for the sake of political spite? We haven’t seen that level of malevolence since Watergate or maybe Bush II. False equivalence is a very tough sell on this one.

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