Christie endorsing Trump is N.J.-style politics

Elise Young, Bloomberg

Chris Christie wasn’t a fan of “Jersey Shore,” MTV’s series about puerile goings-on in a summer beach rental, and so the New Jersey governor blocked his own administration’s $420,000 tax credit for its production company. After a Rutgers University professor sided with Democrats over legislative redistricting, Christie cut funding for the institute where he worked.

The lesson: If you mess with Christie, you feel his wrath. Today it was Marco Rubio’s turn for a reprimand with Christie’s surprise endorsement of front-runner Donald Trump in Texas.

Rubio, the Florida senator who battled with Christie in a Republican presidential debate before the New Jersey governor dropped out, was riding a wave of praise for his attacks against Trump in the latest debate. Christie didn’t spare words during his endorsement, calling Rubio’s performance at Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate “desperate” and said it reflects a “losing campaign.”

“Christie is out there bashing Marco Rubio when Marco Rubio is still in the race and Christie isn’t,” said Marie Corfield, a 53-year-old art teacher whom the governor berated in 2010 at a town-hall meeting. “It’s typical Christie. When his back is up against the wall, or he feels he’s lost in any way, he lashes out.”

The move will hardly endear the 53-year-old governor to decision-makers and Republican campaign donors who once considered him a potential savior for a party that has alienated women and minorities. Instead, more than two weeks after Christie abandoned his own presidential race, it freshens his resume as Trump may be thinking of vice presidential or Cabinet choices.

“Christie has decided, This is the only guy who can get me out of New Jersey,”’ said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University poll in West Long Branch. “New Jersey is about to implode and he wants to get out of there before it happens.”Home Troubles Lagging job growth and an $83 billion unfunded pension liability have contributed to New Jersey’s credit rating being downgraded by three ratings companies nine times combined since Christie took office in 2010, a record for one governor. Its $8 billion transportation-spending account is set to run dry on June 30, with no replacement plan in place, and unionized employees of New Jersey Transit’s commuter railroad, a vital link to New York City jobs, have voted to strike on March 13 if they don’t have contract agreements.

In November 2012, as Christie led New Jersey’s recovery from its costliest natural disaster, his approval hit 77 percent, buoying his national appeal as a take-charge leader. It was Christie’s angry confrontations with detractors that also helped propel him to national prominence.

When the nonpartisan legislative services office disagreed with his revenue targets, it, too, got less budget money. And though he has denied any involvement with a George Washington Bridge traffic-jam scandal, it was Christie aides and allies who triggered it as an act of revenge after a Democratic mayor didn’t endorse his re-election bid.

The bridge incident provided an introduction to voters nationally of the the tactics that gave Christie his reputation as a tough-talking Jersey guy. The governor, who says he wasn’t part of the operation to cause traffic jams, was never implicated. Still, the episode hurt his approval, as did his frequent out-of-state travel amid his presidential bid.

“Does Chris Christie have a reputation for being vengeful? Of course he does,” said John Wisniewski, a state Assemblyman who was co-chairman of a legislative panel investigating the traffic jams. “We’ve seen him close lanes at the George Washington Bridge because he was mad at the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing him. He was so mad at Democrats for passing a budget he didn’t like that he cut funding for a women’s clinic.”

While Christie’s attacks on Rubio hurt the senator’s standing, they also may have reminded New Hampshire voters of his critics’ accusations back home that the governor is a bully.

After his quarrel with Corfield over her funding and pay went viral on YouTube, she ran for a state Assembly seat and lost. Michael DuHaime, a Christie adviser, engineered campaign contributions to her opponent.

In 2012, he argued with a heckler on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, waving an ice cream cone and accusing the man of acting like a “big shot.” Union leaders who criticized Christie were “political thugs,” and lawmakers, residents and media who challenged him were “idiots,” “jerks” and “numbnuts.”

“Christie clearly can’t stand Marco Rubio,” said Matthew Hale, a political science professor at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. “This announcement is an example of that and designed to deflate whatever momentum that Rubio hoped to get from his debate performance last night.”