Boston College Expert: Presidential Candidate Chris Christie
KAY LEHMAN SCHLOZMAN
BOSTON COLLEGE MOAKLEY PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
Kay Lehman Schlozman is the Moakley Professor of Political Science whose principal research focus is citizen participation in American politics. She also has expertise in broad areas of American political life; parties and elections, interest groups, voting and public opinion, political movements, money in politics, and the gender gap in citizen political activity. Professor Schlozman is the co-author of five books, including The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and The Broken Promise of American Democracy. She is also the editor of Elections in America and was the chair of the American Political Science Association's section on Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior.
"Chris Christie’s reputation changed,” says Boston College Political Science Professor Kay Schlozman, whose expertise is citizen participation in American politics. “I think his is an extremely long shot candidacy. On the other hand, primary politics, even more than general election politics, are full of surprises.”
His bluntness and success in the blue state of New Jersey made him a darling of the GOP, but now he finds himself climbing uphill toward political relevance. His image suffered a significant blow in the wake of the scandal over the 2013 lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. The closure was seen as political payback against a Democratic mayor who would not endorse Christie's reelection. The governor has denied any connection.
“There’s not any evidence that he was directly behind Bridgegate but on the other hand, there is reason to believe that he created an environment in which a certain kind of political vindictiveness was an acceptable part of what seemed to be the M.O. of his operation,” says Schlozman, co-author of five books including, The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy. “This not only reflects badly on him, but it keys into the fact that the American people have little patience for political shenanigans these days and are tired of the hyper-partisan environment and the inability of many of our most gifted political figures to get along and forge compromises.”
With a campaign slogan of “Telling It Like It Is,” the governor will have to answer questions on why New Jersey’s economy has seen anemic growth, why the state is billions of dollars behind in payments to the state pension system Christie promised to fix, and why the Garden State’s credit ratings have been downgraded three times.
“None of those things are good news for someone using his record as a governor to persuade us that he ought to be President of the United States,” says Schlozman, editor of Elections in America and former chair of the American Political Science Association's section on Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior.
“One of the things in presidential nominating politics is that the number of candidates who are trying to feed from the same party trough can have implications for who succeeds,” says Schlozman. “So if you have a lot of candidates who look like one another, they will split one set of votes. If there’s another candidate who’s in a different position, that candidate is then in a position to clean up whatever is in that part of the feeding trough. If there are a whole bunch of Huckabees and Santorums and no Christies, that makes it easier for Christie.”
While the popularity of Christie is a shell of its former self, the brash candidate may be able to call in favors curried when he was chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association, and his geography may be a bonus as he tries to overcome the sizeable fundraising gap.
“We know the New York area is a huge source of campaign funding and if he has good relations with Wall Street, that’s a real vein of campaign support,“ says Schlozman. “Raising a war chest is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition for success in presidential nomination politics. You can’t be the nominee unless you raise a lot of money but having raised a lot of money does not guarantee you the nomination.”
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