Although pundits and commentators on both sides of the political divide have spent countless hours trying to interpret what impact the Nov. 6 elections will have on the 2020 Presidential tilt, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is having none of it.
“Nothing – absolutely nothing,” Christie said about what ’18 will mean to ’20. “2020 will be about President Trump against ‘that person.’” As the latter, meaning the Democratic nominee, has yet to be determined, all other speculation is just hot air, Christie said.
Now an ABC News contributor, Christie made his remarks at a post-election wrap-up at Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts on Nov. 7. The well-attended event appeared to heavily favor those sympathetic to the Republican cause, if the widespread groans at the first mention of Gov.-elect Ned Lamont and the applause that resulted from Christie’s calling the left-leaning “The View” co-host Joy Behar “stupid” were any indication.
Christie himself – who not only served as the Garden State’s governor from 2010-18, but also ran as a Republican candidate for president in 2016 and briefly served on Trump’s transition team – mostly kept the partisan comments to a minimum, preferring instead to paint himself as a fair-minded political analyst with a gift for stand-up comedian-style wisecracks.
Although he touched on the Connecticut gubernatorial contest between Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, Christie took more of a big-picture approach during his 45-minute opening comments. Having gotten two hours’ sleep after election night, he said, “I’ll be a little bit punchy, which is good for you – I’ll probably say a few things I’m not supposed to.”
Those potential fireworks were absent, although his early dig at Behar promised there could be more to come. That slam came in response to Behar’s opinion on “The View” that Republicans had gained seats in the Senate this election cycle because of gerrymandering. Christie noted that gerrymandering is the manner in which congressional districts are drawn to favor one party or candidate. Senators are elected at the state level, so gerrymandering does not apply.
“She’s just so stupid,” Christie repeated.
As for claims that the 2018 election could be the “most consequential” in the nation’s history, as he said his ABC election night colleague George Stephanopoulos and others have maintained, Christie invoked the elections of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and even George Washington as only some counter-arguments.
Though unceremoniously dumped from the Trump transition team – something the ex-governor said still hadn’t been fully explained – Christie said he and his wife have been friends with Trump for 16 years. As such, Christie said, he correctly predicted that Trump would spin the Nov. 6 results as a “tremendous victory” for him personally.
Christie got another laugh when he recounted how, whenever he’s asked how he could have voted for Trump, his answer is: “I didn’t want to, I wanted to vote for me.”
Fielding an audience question as to whether it’s possible for Connecticut to elect a Republican governor in the current climate, Christie said, “Of course. But there’s a real need for some serious self-examination (by the state Republican party) of who they’re picking as candidates and why they lose.”
He further said that Stefanowski’s loss was due at least in part to national dissatisfaction with Trump’s performance. Connecticut is one of “the places where Donald Trump is too much of a headwind for anybody – not necessarily his policies, but personally.”
Likability is one of the chief characteristics a successful candidate must have, Christie added. “Hillary Clinton is simply the most unlikable candidate of my lifetime,” he said. “I’m not talking about her competence or her experience, but her likability.” Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all benefited from being more “likable” than their opponents, he said.
During the evening’s concluding 45-minute Q&A portion, Christie was asked about the firing of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced earlier that day.
“It’s amazing it took that long,” he said. “It’s the first one but I doubt it’ll be the last one.” Although the possibility that Trump could offer the job to Christie – the U.S. attorney for New Jersey before being elected governor – has been discussed in the press, no such follow-up was posed of Christie.
Christie also briefly discussed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s defeat, which he said was due at least in part to voter fatigue with Walker, who due to a recall vote ran for election four times in an eight-year span; the talk of failed Texas U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke being a star-in-the-making (“Could Beto O’Rourke go away?”); and the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and related matters.
Of the latter, Christie expressed confidence in Mueller and his tactics, approving the lack of leaks and noting that the investigation is showing signs of wrapping up. He further declared that Trump would not shut down the investigation, as has been consistently rumored.
Trump “knows how far to go without damaging himself,” Christie said. “It will never happen.”
He concluded by warning House Democrats, widely thought to be eager to launch various investigations and issue subpoenas – and possibly to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump – to remember 1995-98. That era began with Republicans picking up 54 seats in the House of Representatives and eight in the Senate – momentum that was derailed by the Clinton impeachment hearings.
“We look back now and say that was a dumb move – they made Bill Clinton a martyr,” Christie said. “There should be appropriate oversight, absolutely. But don’t overdo it – you’ll turn the president into a martyr and he’ll be tougher to beat than he already will be in 2020.”