by Marc Jampole
Everyone is saying that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie acted in his self-interest when he scheduled a special election to replace the recently deceased Frank Lautenberg in the U.S. Senate three weeks before the general elections this coming November. The estimates for the additional cost to hold two elections in one month have run as high as $24 million. What makes this additional expenditure by a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative particularly absurd is the fact that Christie will appoint an interim Senator who will fill the seat until January no matter when the election is held.
The pundits seem to agree that Christie decided to hold this expensive second Election Day so that he wouldn’t have to face a ballot that had the popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker on the opposite ticket. Booker announced he was running for the U.S. Senate long before Lautenberg passed away, and Booker’s presence on the ballot would likely compel more minorities to vote, many of whom Christie fears would vote straight Democratic party line.
It’s not that Christie is afraid to lose the governor’s race. He’s afraid that he won’t rack up the awesome totals he thinks he needs to prove to the Republican Party that he can draw enough cross-over votes to win the presidential election in 2016.
But what some are calling a deft political maneuver by Christie with only short-term costs may come back to haunt New Jersey’s BMOC because Christie committed a cardinal sin of communications: he acted against the image that people have of him.
Christie’s enormous popularity among independents, both in New Jersey and nationally, is based on his bipartisanship. He talks like a centrist, and in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy he reached across the aisle to President Obama for the good of the people of his state.
Flimsy, inconsequential, dubious — those are the words that come to mind when I consider the possible advantage to Christie by costing New Jersey taxpayers $24 million to hold a special election.
What makes it worse is that Christie has taken such a hard line on cutting programs that actually help the citizens of New Jersey. Among others, the New York Times has pointed that Christie has cut the New Jersey budget to the bone. Christie cut $10 million from the after-school programs for at-risk children. He cut $8.6 million in tuition subsidies for college students. He cut $12 million in charity care at hospitals. He vetoed a $24 million plan for early voting in New Jersey! Christie’s actions say that he thinks New Jersey can’t afford this help to the poor and disenfranchised, but it can afford to have a separate election for one office three weeks before the general election.
Christie is known for putting people ahead of politics. But in the case of the special election, he chose to put politics first. He didn’t do it to advance a piece of legislation, nor to help the Republican Party. No, he did it to benefit himself and himself alone.
Everybody knows that Christie acted in extreme self-interest as opposed to acting in the best interest of his constituents. He is living in a dream world if he thinks people are going to forget, mainly because his opponents in both major parties will keep reminding everyone.
In one Machiavellian act, Christie has soiled his image. He has lost his big edge in the competition against other Republican presidential hopefuls and destroyed the centrist “good guy” image he created for himself in his handling of the Sandy crisis.
Chris Christie has destroyed his brand.
Marc Jampole is a poet and writer who runs Jampole Communications, a public relations and communications firm in Pittsburgh. He blogs several times a week at OpEdge.