Whatever happens in the bridge controversy during the days ahead, Christie should brace himself for more bad news. As the leading potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, he is also the leading target for opposition researchers on both sides. Because polls show that he would hold his own against Hillary Clinton, Democrats want to take him down or at least soften him up. The same is true of his Republican rivals.
It will happen this way. All over New Jersey, young operatives will show up in courthouses, halls of records, and libraries looking for every document or news story that touches on any aspect of his life. (Most of this material is not available online. Serious oppo people know that they have to turn pages and scroll through old microfilm.) If there is poison out there, it will come out. Maybe other campaigns will openly post it on a web page. More likely, they will pass it along to journalists, who will eagerly take it. As Fred Thompson wrote on NRO back in 2011: “Investigative reporters have been replaced by people who keep a big basket under the transom to catch the dossiers and other materials that the various campaigns drop on opposing candidates.”
If Christie wants to run for president, he should do a meticulous vulnerability study, that is, an opposition-research project on himself. Otherwise, additional controversies will catch him by surprise, which he cannot afford.
— John J. Pitney Jr. is Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College.