N.H. Endorsements May Be Key for Christie
A fresh round of major endorsements could boost Chris Christie in New Hampshire at a pivotal point in the Republican presidential primary.
On Sunday, the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader awarded Christie its support, writing in an editorial that he “is the one candidate who has the range and type of experience the nation desperately needs.”
Christie has also nabbed the backing of Renee Plummer, an influential Granite State GOP activist, CBS News reported Saturday. "People feel that he's Reaganesque," Plummer told CBS. "That he's going to take care of us, protect us."
Christie has pinned his hopes of winning the Republican nomination on winning or placing in New Hampshire, and he has hunkered down there, focusing in particular on town-hall events that showcase his signature straight talk and raw political talent.
But Christie has received little attention or support for his efforts, with Donald Trump’s unusual candidacy sucking up most of the oxygen in New Hampshire and elsewhere. As Trump has continued to lead polls in the first primary state, the New Jersey governor’s numbers have held steady in single digits.
The Union Leader endorsement “gives the governor a serious second look nationally,” an unnamed adviser to Christie told Politico on Sunday. “We aren't saying that this means we're going to win New Hampshire,” the adviser added, “but it does means [Christie] is a real, viable contender in this race right now.”
The paper’s endorsement, coupled with that of the Plummers, could give Christie an edge over the herd of competitors he faces. Christie has been vying against Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and John Kasich for dominance of the establishment-Republican lane.
In its endorsement, the Union Leader implicitly dismissed the other options.
"We don't need another fast-talking, well-meaning freshman U.S. senator trying to run the government,” publisher Joe McQuaid wrote, alluding to President Obama, but also to Sens. Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul. Rubio and Cruz, particularly, have been on the rise of late. “We are still seeing the disastrous effects of the last such choice.”
The editorial continued: “We don’t need as President some well-meaning person from the private sector who has no public experience,” an allusion to another trio of GOP contenders impeding Christie’s momentum: Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina.
McQuaid said Sunday on “Meet the Press” that he only considered governors for the newspaper’s endorsement, which whittled the choices down to Bush, Kasich and Christie. Of those, he said, the latter stood out as the only one with the depth of experience and electability he sought.
"I'm looking for somebody who can get the nomination, and I don't think either Bush or Kasich can do so,” McQuaid said. Bush, he added, “doesn't look like he wants it, and the public senses that.”
Still, Christie is currently at a disadvantage vis a vis his rivals. Each has consistently out-polled him in New Hampshire and nationally, even as Christie and a super PAC supporting him have spent millions of dollars on advertisements. As a result of his lackluster polling, Christie was moved to the undercard stage in the fourth Republican debate, hosted earlier this month by Fox Business Channel and the Wall Street Journal in Milwaukee.
It is uncertain whether the Union Leader’s endorsement will provide enough of a spark to ignite Christie’s candidacy in such a competitive field. The paper’s past support has not always been predictive of the winner of the state’s primary. In 2012, the Union Leader backed Newt Gingrich, writing that he had “the experience, the leadership qualities and the vision to lead this country in these trying times.” Gingrich finished in fourth place with only 10 percent of the vote.
But the paper’s stamp of approval could also signal an aggressive pro-Christie campaign to come in its pages. In 2008, when the Union Leader backed John McCain over Mitt Romney, it followed its initial endorsement with a series of pro-McCain editorials and others that slammed Romney.
“The Union Leader's style is, we don't just endorse once," McQuaid told the Washington Post in 2000. "We endorse every damn day.”
Steve Duprey, a Republican national committeeman from New Hampshire who is remaining neutral in this race, said the paper’s backing is “very significant.”
“The Union Leader is the endorsement any Republican wants,” Duprey said. “I think it particularly helps in this year when the field is so crowded.”