As Chris Christie’s potential 2016 rivals bask in the national spotlight as they make – or plan to make – their presidential bids official, the New Jersey governor finds himself amid fireworks back home.
Like several of his town hall meetings this year, there was no mention of 2016 at his 133rd such event in Kenilworth on Tuesday and topics were local in nature – from new standardized testing in schools, to the state’s beleaguered pension system, to historical restoration, to the scrapped tunnel project between New York and New Jersey.
There were, however, a few tense moments – from a group of protesters yelling “Arrest Christie!” and a woman who told the governor, “I’m not here to be bullied” when asking about pensions and a controversial state settlement with ExxonMobile.
Meanwhile, the picture is very different for several other Republicans who have garnered a lot of national attention — and money – by either officially jumping into the race like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, or making plans to within the next two weeks. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is expected to announce his 2016 intentions on April 7 with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida following suit on April 13.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who advised Sen. John McCain during his 2008 presidential campaign, said Christie still “has to be getting antsy right now” with several other conservatives entering the 2016 fray, especially Rubio, who – like Christie – is considered one of the more moderate Republicans. O’Connell suggested that while Christie’s ability to raise money could be hurt by waiting, there are still some advantages.