Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
At this point in this presidential campaign, it can be reassuring to receive a shock just to know you still have the capacity to register one. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Friday endorsement of Donald Trump was indeed a shock. It vacuumed coverage away from a Trump pledge to gut the First Amendment and a suggestion by a heretofore wonky Marco Rubio that Trump wet himself during their Thursday debate. With good reason. The billionaire’s coup recaptured his momentum in the Republican contest mere hours after Rubio’s debate performance in Houston appeared to wrench it away from him at a decisive moment. The Florida senator’s turn — in which he lacerated Trump relentlessly, and with humor — promised finally to subject the front-runner’s spotty history as a businessman and a political opportunist to some serious and sustained scrutiny. Instead, Christie effected a wholesale turnabout days before voters in the eleven Super Tuesday states stand poised to pad Trump’s delegate lead, a margin that could quickly become insurmountable.
The New Jersey governor’s blessing is the first for Trump from a big-name public official, and it gives him a campaign-trail surrogate who’s proven singularly effective at hobbling Rubio. (Christie is wasting no time getting out there, with appearances today planned in Arkansas and Tennessee.) Yet beyond the tactical dividends his endorsement pays for Trump, its implications for the party itself could be historically profound. Rubio’s Thursday performance, for the briefest instant, heralded a new phase in the campaign, in which a viable contender launched a focused effort, backed by big money, to take out Trump. It may well have been too late. But it would have at least tested the proposition that when united, what remains of the GOP establishment — party leaders, elected officials and moneymen — can still exert some veto power in selecting a standard-bearer.
Christie’s network won’t automatically convey to Trump. It’s likely in fact that his decision permanently damaged some of his relationships in the party. But it’s worth recalling that when Christie first mulled a White House bid five years ago, no less an eminence than Henry Kissinger made a personal appeal for him to run. The roster of corporate leaders from Wall Street and beyond who joined that chorus was similarly gold-plated. Many of them will take seriously an appeal from Christie that Trump represents the party’s best hope. And Christie is already beginning to marshal his finance team for the general election. Rubio hoped to frame his candidacy as the party’s last chance to save itself from a conman. In securing the support of one its brightest stars, Trump may have foreclosed that showdown before it started.
• Trump gets support from an old rival
Chris Christie was supposed to be the big bad bully in the Republican field this year; blustery and willing to push people around, it was expected he could marry establishment support for his policies with Tea Party favor for his anti-Washington credentials and his Jersey attitude. Instead, Donald Trump took that role and Christie was out of the race by mid-February. Now, though, Christie is on Trump’s side, endorsing the New York businessman and raising suspicions there would be a place for him in a Trump administration, potentially as Attorney General. Washington Post
• Rubio is still going after Trump
In the final pre-Super Tuesday debate Thursday evening, Marco Rubio went after Trump with a hatchet, constantly attacking him on everything from failed business deals to use of illegal immigrant labor. In a clear attempt to kill Trump’s momentum and change the national conversation on Super Tuesday, Rubio kept going after Trump after the debate, claiming the businessman had to “make sure his pants weren’t wet” during the event. Politico
• Here’s how Jeb Bush wasted all that money
Jeb Bush dropped out of the presidential race last week after spending more than $130 million and not winning a single primary or caucus. Here’s where all that money went, and why it just couldn’t get it done for Jeb. New York Times
Around the Water Cooler
• Trump doesn’t want David Duke’s endorsement
While he celebrated Christie’s endorsement, Trump was also saying that he didn’t want the support of someone else: white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Bloomberg
• Lindsay Graham is angry
Lindsay Graham doesn’t like what’s happened to the Republican Party — and he let everyone know about it, saying that the party had done “bat*$%^ crazy” at an event earlier this week. Graham, who never managed to get his campaign on solid footing despite a solidly muscular foreign policy, also expanded on just how much Ted Cruz is disliked by his fellow senators. Time
• Bernie Sanders has another celebrity endorsement
While Hillary Clinton is getting more endorsements from Democratic insiders, Bernie Sanders is getting a lot of love from celebrities. You can add former REM frontman Michael Stipe to that list. Stipe may not have as much sway over the kids as he did in the 80s and 90s, but maybe he can get some of his fellow Generation Xers to support the Senator from Vermont. Rolling Stone