New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who once looked like a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination but was hampered from the start of his campaign by a traffic scandal and a sluggish economy at home, dropped out of the race on Wednesday. His departure followed a disappointing sixth-place finish in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, on which he had staked his White House hopes.
“I ran for president with the message that the government needs to once again work for the people, not the people work for the government,” Christie said on Facebook. “And while running for president I tried to reinforce what I have always believed – that speaking your mind matters, that experience matters, that competence matters and that it will always matter in leading our nation. That message was heard by and stood for by a lot of people, but just not enough and that’s ok.”
“I have both won elections that I was supposed to lose and I’ve lost elections I was supposed to win and what that means is you never know what will happen,” Christie added. “That is both the magic and the mystery of politics – you never quite know when which is going to happen, even when you think you do.”
Christie was a favoured candidate of Republican leaders in the days following his 2013 winning reelection bid. His success in a blue state, his fundraising prowess as one of the party’s most high-profile governors, and his brash, often unscripted style of politics seemed like a good fit for the party after its defeat at the hands of President Obama in 2012. But that plan was knocked off course even before his campaign started, most famously by the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal—in which emails showed allies of Christie’s had shut down a New Jersey town’s access to the George Washington Bridge as political retaliation. Christie has steadfastly denied any knowledge of the affair and no evidence has emerged otherwise, but he never really recovered from the investigation of his administration.
As his more moderate profile was not well suited to an increasingly conservative Republican electorate that has gravitated to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, he mostly parked his campaign in New Hampshire. He held dozens of town-hall style meetings in the hope that the Granite State, which has long rewarded retail-style politics, would reward him, too. He enjoyedmoments in the spotlight, particularly when his fierce assault against Marco Rubio in last weekend’s Republican debate brought the Florida Senator’s rising campaign back to earth. But as conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer said Tuesday night on Fox News, it was essentially “a Kamikaze attack.” Christie finished with just a little more than 7% of the New Hampshire vote, behind his establishment rivals John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Rubio.
The gamble that failed
In the weeks before his re-election as governor of New Jersey in 2013, Chris Christie avoided campaigning for Republican legislators in his state. Instead, he aggressively courted endorsements from elected Democrats, racking up dozens. His office emailed YouTube videos to the press in which Mr. Christie and the president of the state Senate, a Democrat, heaped praise on each other. His plan was to win big in this blue state, setting up a future White House run as a bipartisan Republican who could actually get elected in a general election.
The gambit worked, at first. Mr. Christie won, landing 66 percent of independents and 32 percent of Democrats in the November election. The following month a CNN/ORC poll showed that thanks to strong support from independents, Mr. Christie was the Republican front-runner for the nomination, and statistically tied with Hillary Clinton for the next presidential election, in 2016.
But less than two weeks later, an email from a top Christie aide emerged. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” it read. The revelation of that email, andthe scandal that ensued, began the gradual dissipation of Mr. Christie’s broad appeal over the next two years, culminating with his devastating sixth-place finish in the New Hampshire Republican primary on Tuesday. Despite spending more days in that state than any other candidate and more money per voter there than all but one competitor, he saw his White House dreams die on a snowy night in Nashua.
The bridge scandal didn’t dominate his campaign. But it is at the heart of why Mr. Christie’s strategy to run as a moderate unraveled so quickly. The scandal forced the Republican establishment to distance itself from Mr. Christie, robbed him of his reputation as a bipartisan pragmatist and exposed him to national media scrutiny before he’d announced as a presidential candidate.
Summarised from: NYTimes, TIME