In a Republican primary where governors have, by and large, been passed over for anti-establishment alternatives, New Jersey Gov. Christie has a straightforward goal: be the last governor standing.
Because, when it comes down to picking the nominee, Christie believes the Republican Party ultimately needs to choose a governor.
“Only governors know how to run government,” Christie told reporters in New Hampshire last week. “We’ve watched for the last seven years a first-term United States Senator; and I don’t care whether your name is Barack Obama, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, you’ve never won a thing of consequence in your life.”
In a battle between the governors still hanging on in the race, Christie is trying to make the case that he’s the most battle-tested.
“Both Gov. [John] Kasich and Gov. [Jeb] Bush are good guys, and they are good governors, but they had Republican legislatures their entire time,” said Christie, who has had a Democratic legislature since he assumed office in 2010.
“If they think that’s what it’s going to be like in Washington, they’re deadly wrong. I’m just better qualified, I’m better tested.”
By Christie’s calculation, he needs to be the governor who comes out on top in New Hampshire, which he hopes will winnow the field from 12 candidates to four serious candidates.
Assuming he performs well enough in New Hampshire, Christie’s scenario in subsequent primaries relies on the other governors dropping out of the race.
While Ohio’s Kasich has hinted he will drop out if he doesn’t have a respectable showing in New Hampshire, it’s less evident that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would do the same if he were to underperform in the first two states in the nominating process.
The reason it’s so important to Christie’s candidacy that the other governors clear the field – and quickly – after New Hampshire is that his campaign infrastructure in South Carolina and beyond is practically nonexistent.
But Christie, 53, shrugs off the critique that his shoestring national organization will stall his rise beyond New Hampshire, expressing confidence that he’s on track to consolidate establishment support.
“That consolidation is going to lead to us getting different supporters, different staff onboard and different voters who are now available who were voting for other folks before,” Christie told Ingraham last week.
As the former leader of the Republican Governors Association, and with favorability numbers that have essentially switched places with Bush – bringing Christie out on top – Christie appears to be betting on a national organization falling into place when he needs it.
“We’ve got great friends and great supporters in South Carolina, in Mississippi, in Alabama, in Georgia, the speaker of the House in Georgia is supporting us,” Christie said recently on FOX radio. “Believe me, when we do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, there’s going to be people coming out of the woodwork in those states to help us become President.”