Chris Christie Is Trying to Make a Living Off the Past. So Is New Hampshire.

“Glory days,” sings Christie’s hero, “properly they’ll go you by.”

Nowhere is that more true than within the Granite State, the place the previous New Jersey governor has all the time gravitated in pursuit of his presidential ambitions, and the place his destiny can be determined once more. Ideology and geography all the time made Christie and New Hampshire a pure pair. This time, they’re an particularly becoming match: Each discover themselves making an attempt to make a dwelling off the previous.

As a presidential candidate, Christie is a Bruce Springsteen tune, however not one of many upbeat anthems campaigns play earlier than the candidate takes the stage. He’s one among The Boss’s unhappy, cautionary tales about possibilities not taken, and issues which may have been. Passing on a 2012 run appeared solely prudent again within the day. However a decade later, each flash of his once-formidable political expertise is a reminder that lightning doesn’t linger within the bottle. You hope that Christie doesn’t sit round excited about it, however Bruce would inform you that he most likely does.

So why is Christie right here in New Hampshire, in 2024? The tougher you look, the much less that meets the attention. Again in June, in a sparsely populated room on the Derry VFW, he tried out a line to clarify his candidacy. Presidents go large, he stated. However the candidate’s particular concepts — tackling funds deficits, reforming entitlements, avoiding isolationist international coverage — didn’t sound just like the work of a person who’s been considering large. At one level, Christie gave a shout out to former President George W. Bush, which appeared solely applicable for a politician avoiding the arduous realities of the place his get together has gone for the reason that final time he tried to guide it.

A pair months later in Salem, N.H., although, the candidate had dropped the “going large” schtick. He knew the viewers doesn’t come to listen to a couple of Christie presidency. As of late, as a substitute of a marketing campaign for workplace, Christie has a task, and a racket: the campaign towards former President Donald Trump.

The function is a time-honored one in New Hampshire presidential politics: The fearless reality teller, the candidate courageous sufficient to inform voters what they don’t need to hear. And it’s true, Christie channels the ghost of John McCain higher than every other By no means Trumper might. However the tougher reality is that lately, folks go to see Christie as a result of he’ll inform them precisely what they need to hear about Trump; he’s not persuading anyone who’s not already satisfied. These different Republicans in want of persuasion? They’re unlikely to take a look at a candidate so deeply disliked by his fellow partisans. They’re extra more likely to be heckling him from the road.

The racket, given Christie’s dire circumstances, just isn’t a half-bad scheme. It’s a outstanding factor, how lengthy he has dined out on a debate second that occurred virtually eight years in the past, when he left Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) gasping for political oxygen the weekend earlier than the New Hampshire major. This cycle, Christie payments himself not a lot as a candidate, however a pinch-hitter. He might not be capable of discipline or throw the speedball anymore, however for those who ship him to the plate within the ninth, he can nonetheless ship. It’s a comforting thought for many who nonetheless assume some magical second will derail Trump.

That’s what made final week’s debate so disheartening for many who take pleasure in The Christie Present. Not solely was he denied the much-anticipated confrontation with The Donald, however when he tried to take down the following neatest thing to Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy simply shrugged him off. The political novice retorted that Christie can be a extra convincing reality teller if his whole marketing campaign wasn’t motivated by vengeance and grievance towards the person he as soon as served and supported. It was an obnoxious line, largely as a result of it had the ring of reality. Springsteen teaches that the younger owe little respect to what has been, and so it’s in presidential politics.

Again in New Hampshire, it’s beginning to get darkish earlier. And for native activists and shut observers, it’s arduous to shake that twilight feeling in regards to the first-in-the-nation presidential major. Granted, the locals habitually evaluate the current unfavorably to the hallowed days of yore, whether or not their tastes run to McCain or Eugene McCarthy. However this time, they appear to be confronting some uncomfortable info.

On the Democratic aspect, voters appear ambivalent about President Joe Biden’s demotion of their quadrennial occasion from its conventional first-in-the-nation perch, and elites float the notion of writing in Biden’s identify on major day within the probably occasion he gained’t put his identify on the poll.

The Republican motion across the state, corresponding to it’s, carries its personal set of worries. True, candidates are right here incessantly, and voters nonetheless go to see them. However in between the visits, there’s a clean area that campaigns used to fill. The Christie indicators being handed out in Salem, N.H., didn’t truly belong to the marketing campaign. The positive print exhibits they had been purchased and paid for by Inform It Like It Is, the tremendous PAC doing the heavy lifting for his bid.

Christie is hardly the one one taking part in this shell recreation. It’s exceedingly tough to discover a marketing campaign right here making an attempt to construct one thing that connects with residents and makes its presence identified in communities. Good younger embeds searching for grassroots motion don’t comply with campaigns, they tag together with People for Prosperity, or strive to determine precisely what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has offshored. It’s not the Democratic Social gathering’s nomination calendar that’s the offender. It’s the nagging sense that the nationalization of the nomination course of is decreasing New Hampshire to a fairly backdrop, not a battleground. That’s adequate to draw the media and political vacationers, come January. However this yr, one thing feels prefer it’s slipping away. Similar to Christie, New Hampshire’s hoping that perhaps every part that dies sometime comes again.