A team of reporters for CNN had a recap of the New Hampshire primary and how it came to be that the two outsiders won. It explains why Chris Christie zeroed in on Marco Rubio in the last debate and savaged him, rather than aiming for the frontrunner Donald Trump. It is true that Christie was competing to win the ‘establishment ‘ candidate slot that Rubio seemed to be holding on to but there was apparently more to it than that, that it was also motivated by a desire for revenge.
During the past month, the Christie-Rubio rivalry had turned intensely personal.
Rubio’s allies had set their mark on Christie in early January just as he seemed to be rising in the polls on the strength of his many town halls here. Early that month, the super PAC supporting Rubio, Conservative Solutions PAC, unleashed multi-million dollar ad buy.
They put out a pair of scorching ads faulting the New Jersey Governor for his past position on Common Core, for his expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, and for New Jersey’s economic woes. One ad was essentially a montage of photos of Christie and Obama after Superstorm Sandy, a sore spot with conservative voters.
The other raised the specter of the George Washington Bridge scandal, the scheme to close lanes and create traffic tie ups that embroiled officials in his administration. “Chris Christie. High Taxes. Weak Economy. Scandals,” the ad’s tag line said. “Not what we need in the White House.”
Christie and his allies were furious. In private conversations, Christie told aides he couldn’t believe the response that Rubio was getting from voters and donors given his thin resume in Senate and what he viewed as a lackluster record of accomplishments, according to a person familiar with the conversations.
After Iowa, with their poll numbers still in single digits, Christie seized his moment to strike.
Christie had apparently carefully planned his attack on Rubio, that he was someone who had no real accomplishments to his name and whatever he was asked would always quickly pivot to a memorized speech. He was waiting to unleash this on him at the debate but must have been stunned that Rubio would actually demonstrate that fault so glaringly. Even Donald Trump was impressed by Christie’s ambush.
Though on the sidelines, Trump underscored the power of the moment during the commercial break as Christie walked across the stage to see his wife. Someone grabbed Christie’s arm from behind, and the New Jersey governor turned to see none other than the taunter-in-chief Donald Trump.
“Oh my God. That was brutal,” Trump muttered to Christie on the debate stage, according to someone familiar with the exchange. “Tremendous.”
Interestingly, Rubio’s term in the US Senate also ends this year and if his presidential campaign tanks, he will be out of elected office. It is unlikely that he can ever run for the senate again since he has so often expressed his disdain for that institution and has the worst attendance record. So if he wants to try again for the presidency in say eight years, his best shot would be to run for governor of Florida and build up his resume. But that would require hard work and he strikes me as having a Sarah Palinesque quality of wanting to get the big prize without actually putting in any real effort.
The article also describes the difficulties the Hillary Clinton campaign has been having in generating real enthusiasm for her campaign, crafting an appealing message, and her struggles to connect with women voters, especially the young, while Bernie Sanders seems to have no trouble electrifying his supporters.