I come to bury Christie, not to praise him.
He could have been a serious contender in the 2016 race, but Chris Christie couldn't quite manage to transcend the grubby politics of his home state. The Fort Lee lane closure scandal, or Bridgegate, was as tawdry as it was unnecessary. There was never any doubt that Christie would win his reelection bid in November of 2013, and he did in fact defeat his Democratic opponent by a large margin on election day. The decision to plunge the town of Fort Lee into traffic chaos, by closing two of the three lanes normally open to access the George Washington Bridge, was made out of political spite, pure and simple. And whether Christie ordered it, or even knew about it in advance, is basically irrelevant. It defies logic to believe that his aides would have done something like that without believing that their boss would have approved of it. Which can only mean that Christie fostered a ruthless, and borderline criminal, political culture within his administration.
Many of the postmortems being written for the failed Christie campaign lay a lot of the blame on that infamous hug, that really wasn't a hug. In the immediate aftermath of the devastating Superstorm Sandy that ravaged the Northeast, President Barack Obama flew into New Jersey and was warmly greeted by Governor Christie. A number of pictures were taken of the two men together viewing the destruction that was wrought by the hurricane. One in particular shows the two men shaking hands, and the president has his hand on Christie's shoulder. All of that unfolded right before the 2012 presidential election, and the conventional wisdom is that Christie gave Obama a huge boost by appearing with him. And, by the same token, Christie badly hurt Republican Mitt Romney's chances of defeating the incumbent president. Personally, I'm not all that sure what else Christie could have done at that point and his approval ratings shot-up after those photos began circulating. In fact, one could plausibly argue that his handling of Hurricane Sandy was the high point of Christ Christie's tenure as New Jersey governor.
True to form, Christie went down swinging in New Hampshire, the state on which he had staked everything. His hard work in the Granite State had appeared to be paying off, but then a barrage of attack ads paid for by Super Pacs supporting Bush, Rubio, and Kasich started hitting the airwaves in New Hampshire. Christie's poll numbers nosedived, and he became increasingly bitter towards Marco Rubio who was coming off a strong third-place finish in Iowa. That bitterness culminated in the almost savage take-down of Rubio by Christie that we saw during the last GOP debate. He wounded Rubio deeply, maybe even fatally, but it turns out to have been a murder-suicide. He finished a distant sixth in the primary, and the writing was on the wall. Chris Christie's presidential aspirations are shattered, and all that is left for him is to slink back home and finish out his term as governor. And I don't expect that the homecoming is going to be a very warm one.