Christie’s gambit

Robert Costa at NRO and others make the case that Governor Chris Christie has sold out the GOP for his own aspirations (?) with his decision to hold a special election to fill Lautenberg’s vacated Senate seat in October 2013 instead of allowing his soon-to-be-appointed interim choice remain in the seat until the end of Lautenberg’s term in 2014. This objection is wrong on both counts.

First, it isn’t necessarily Christie choosing himself (or Democrat electoral chances?) over GOP chances. The only Republican that would be allegedly helped by having the interim appointment serve until 2014 is that appointed candidate, or one Senate seat. Conversely, there are lots of Republicans who could be helped by keeping the extremely popular and charismatic like Democratic nominee, Newark mayor Cory Booker, off the November 2014 ballot. Christie himself will likely inflate GOP turnout in November 2013, which will help Republicans running for the other state offices in that election. Christie won’t be on the ballot in 2014, but had he not made this decision, Booker would be, which would probably have inflated Democrat and specifically black turnout, dragging down other potential New Jersey Republicans running for the House. So yes, he may have traded away Republican chances for one more Senate seat in 2014, but really how good were those chances going to be anyway?

It turns out that with an interim appointed Senator, not very good. And that’s the second part Costa and others get wrong. Having a Republican appointed to Lautenberg’s seat for the next 18 months does not increase the chances of a Republican keeping that seat in 2014. It turns out that interim appointees have a very hard time holding onto their seat in the next election historically. Given that this election would have been against Cory Booker and his +60% approval rating anyway, Christie would be trading 18 months of an extra Republican in the Senate for…nothing really.

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