With the handing down of guilty verdicts on all counts in the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal, much is still up in the air. Mistrials, sentencing, and appeals are all potential game-changers. But one thing Friday’s verdicts made clear was that Chris Christie is having a really bad year.
It started off in January with Trump still leading most polls but many believing that the race was still wide open for one of the “establishment candidates,” and there was no reason to preclude Christie from that list — once Trump was out of the race (HAHAHA!) who knew where his supporters would go? Still, Christie’s numbers were pretty flat, and after not making much of a showing in the Iowa caucuses, the firebrand governor needed to do something to juice things up.
So he went after Marco Rubio, famously taking down the Florida senator during the Feb. 6 Republican debate in advance of the New Hampshire primaries. But all that seemed to do was cripple Rubio while doing little to help himself, clearing the way for Trump to trounce Rubio and win his first primary. It was, as The New Republic's Elspeth Reeve put it, a political "murder-suicide,” with Christie knocking out one of Trump's most serious competitors for him.
Christie’s presidential ambitions ended after New Hampshire, and by the end of the month he had jumped on the Trump train. But it was unclear the extent to which Christie, a relatively moderate Republican governor of a fairly blue state, bought into some of the nastier components of the Trump message. At the press conference where he endorsed the Donald, it seemed apparent in Christie’s eyes that he was on uncertain ground.
The next sad chapter for Christie in 2016 came as Trump was locking down the nomination, and the veepstakes began. Christie was clearly a top contender for the job, but it wasn’t clear until recently how close the governor came to the number two spot. That it was Christie’s ongoing trouble with Bridgegate that might have played a role in his losing out on being Trump’s VP turns out to have been an ominous twist.
Which leads us to today. While Christie’s Bridgegate futures are unclear — he’ll be appearing in court later this month regarding his role in the case — he’s likely to finish 2016 in a diminished capacity. Unless, of course, Donald Trump wins the presidency and rewards Christie for his early and unwavering allegiance, perhaps with the Attorney General spot. In that alternate universe, maybe Christie will get to make good on his Republican National Convention kangaroo court case against Hillary Clinton.
On the other hand, Christie might be too toxic now, even for a President Trump. And "too toxic for Trump" could end up being the most damning rejection of them all.