Chris Christie is political toast.No, those wouldn't hurt him. Yelling at Elmo would probably endear Christie to GOP-base voters who think public broadcasting should be defunded, even if that threatens Sesame Street. And certainly those voters liked the Chris Christie who used to go medieval on random hecklers.
Cause of his charred presidential prospects: an unreformed state pension system. I know that’s disappointing. Not nearly as exciting as the political near-death experiences that went before. We were hoping the next disaster would be something like Governor Yells at Elmo. Or a reprise of the day he chased a guy down the boardwalk while waving an ice cream cone, this time maybe featuring Tom Hanks or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
It's not the pension problem that's doing him in. Look at the recent GOP primary polls collected by HuffPost Pollster (go to the link for the full list and other candidates' numbers).
Christie regularly scored in double digits, enough to put him in the top tier in a crowded field, right through the summer of 2014. (Earlier numbers are at the link.)
Then what happened? Well, several things. The first thing is that Mitt Romney happened. He started talking seriously about running for president -- and he immediately shot up in the polls, while Christie sunk to single digits. If you're one of the remaining Republican voters who want a nominee who's a bit to the left of the extreme right, it's quite possible that you dumped Christie for Romney around that time. (The only poll since October in which Christie has scored in double digits was one that didn't include Romney.)
At the same time, Jeb Bush started making serious moves, and he helped split the not-completely-wingnutty vote. More important, Ben Carson's name began to be added to pollsters' candidate lists. Mike Huckabee began to make moves. And Scott Walker got a wave of publicity, all of it positive as far as most Republicans are concerned.
Christie's appeal in the GOP falls into two categories: he's not on the extreme right (which is a good thing to some voters) and he's been on Fox News a lot infuriating liberals. But Mitt and Jeb took some of his support in the former category, and Walker, Carson, and Huckabee have really cut into his support among voters for whom the latter is extremely important.
That was Christie's big mistake: He spent 2014 traveling the country collecting chits as head of the Republican Governors Association, rather than being seen on Fox attacking union teachers and other right-wing Antichrists. He doesn't seem like an obvious president -- he's too young and jumpy and he isn't a mature alpha male like Romney or Bush, which matters to a few GOP voters -- so when he failed to tap into the other source of his appeal, namely his ability to annoy and needle Fox viewers' mortal enemies, he lost even more ground, to Carson and Walker.
Christie seems toothless right now. He doesn't have liberals and Democrats on the defensive. Republicans think that we think he's a joke; by contrast, they think (at least right now) that we fear Walker (and, to a lesser extent, Carson).
Romney aggressively attacked Obama throughout 2014, and sometimes got under Democrats' skin -- that's a big reason why he polled well while he was flirting with a run. Christie should have done what Romney did. If he doesn't have us on the defensive, he's got nothing.