Chris Christie stunned New Jersey Republicans twice in one week with his bizarre decisions on the filling of the Senate vacancy created by Democrat Frank Lautenberg’s death. First, he created an awkward October special election when his fellow Republicans were expecting they would have an incumbent in the seat for 18 months who could defend the seat in the regular 2014 election. Today, he made another strange move in appointing Jeff Chiesa, a longtime Christie crony who he had appointed to be the state’s attorney general in 2012 (the office of attorney general in New Jersey is filled by gubernatorial appointment). Chiesa, a nonpolitical prosecutor, has already announced he will not seek to run for the Senate and will leave office after the winner of the special election is sworn in.
Republicans are vocally, if largely privately, aghast at the governor’s actions. An exception is former GOP consultant Ed Rollins, who once advised New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman. He called the move “dumb, selfish and arrogant.”
But the media did find a couple of RINOs who are often called upon to parrot the conventional wisdom. Steve Schmidt, the manager of John McCain’s failed 2008 presidential campaign, told the Newark Star-Ledger: “Chris Christie represents a brand in the Republican party that can win. It’s such an insider issue that it’s not going to matter in 2016.” David Gergen, the politically flexible aide who has served presidents ranging from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, tweeted: “Governor Christie acted like big leaguer today — made tough call, moved swiftly, arguably best outcome for NJ, took the heat. Presidential.”
But Larry Sabato, the political-science professor at the University of Virginia who is also a frequent go-to guy for the media, was having none of it. He says this week’s stunts will seriously alienate Christie from the base of the Republican party. “It’s over for them,” he said. Too cute, too often is the best summary of this week’s Chris Christie.