In his first high-profile hire since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump announced in a statement yesterday that he'd chosen New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to lead Trump's White House transition team should he be elected president in November. The bold move comes on the heels of rumors that Trump asked son-in-law Jared Kushner to lead his transition team, and flies in the face of shortlists for Trump's potential vice president picks that named Christie as one of Trump's potential running mates (though Trump said he hasn't ruled out Christie for VP). The announcement solidifies Trump's growing hubris as he chooses to potentially transition to president with the wildly unpopular Christie spearheading the effort.
A poll released last week shows Gov. Christie's approval rating at an all-time low — a mere 30 percent, the lowest it's been since he took office. In the poll, conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University, 61 percent of 694 randomly-selected survey respondents disapproved of Christie, a number that reflects the six percentage point drop following his endorsement of Trump. These numbers illustrate just how unpopular Christie is among New Jerseyans, 57 percent of whom called for his resignation last summer while he was still running for commander-in-chief.
Clearly, Trump's decision to have Christie lead his White House transition team is indicative of the strange reality Trump is living in — one where hate speech is politically advantageous.
Christie's career as governor and failed presidential hopeful has been pockmarked by disapproval following the Bridgegate scandal in 2014 (though he has denied any involvement in the situation) and was once so low that a teacher at his former high school in Livingston, New Jersey called his plans to announce his presidential bid in his alma mater's gym "a slap in the face."
In his campaign's press release announcing Christie's new position, Trump was complimentary, saying that "Governor Christie is an extremely knowledgeable and loyal person," an accolade complicated by clashes between Trump and Christie on the campaign trail last year, when Trump accused Christie of being an absentee governor to a "deeply troubled" state.
In a perverse way, Trump singing Christie's praises make sense: Trump may view Christie's track record, from his success in rallying support for the New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy to his continued denial of involvement in Bridgegate as a source of power and strength. Additionally, Christie's endorsement added some much-needed legitimacy to Trump's campaign. Whatever his reasoning, Trump's decision to publicly align with yet another divisive figure is paints a telling portrait of an overconfident would-be politician that treats politics like a reality show.
As Trump's nomination is all-but-secured, political theater enthusiasts can't help but wonder which clown he will prop up next.