Friday, February 26, 2016

Why did Chris Christie endorse Trump?

I was in the middle of a talk on the 2016 campaign when somebody broke the news that Chris Christie endorsed Trump.  What does this mean?  It could be that Christie just endorsed the guy with the most similar personality to his own.  It could be a regional thing.  It could be another way to stick it to Rubio.  Then Paul LePage of Maine did the same thing.  What's going on here?

In Part II of my "Trump to Political Science: Drop Dead" series, I explained why I never liked The Party Decides.  The book argued that party elites control the presidential nomination process by endorsing their chosen candidates, and having voters just take cues.  I never though it explained things very well, and I used 2004 as an exemplar of the problem.  2004 may be replaying itself here.

In 2004, before the Democrats held their first contests, Howard Dean was leading in the polls.  Party elites didn't trust him, and thought he would be a weak general election candidate.  However, his lead in the polls looked insurmountable, so many rushed to endorse him out of fear of getting on the wrong side of the inevitable winner.  It wasn't until after Dean collapsed in Iowa and New Hampshire that Kerry's endorsements started racking up.  Endorsements followed success rather than creating it.

That may be replaying itself.  It is getting very hard to deny that Trump is on the victory path.  And, Trump isn't the kind of person who can take criticism.  He holds grudges.  One of the first things he did in a presidential debate was take a swipe at has-been celebrity, Rosie O'Donnell.  Did I mention he did this in a presidential debate?  If Trump is on the path to victory, Republican establishment types will need to start making nice with him very soon.  The Party Decides argued that endorsements lead to success in the primaries.  If endorsements follow success, then the model is backwards.

Now, let's talk about those Party Decides apparatchiks.  Suppose Republican officials rush to endorse Trump, fearing his wrath if he gets the nomination and they fail to genuflect.  I'll bet you that the PD-apparatchiks will say, "Ha!  We win!  Trump got the most endorsements, and Trump won!  The Party Decided!  Yay us!"

Can we all agree now that this would be some ridiculously contorted bullshit?  Do endorsements cause victory, or does inevitable victory yield endorsements?  Those aren't even close to the same things, and The Party Decides claims the former, not the latter.  If the latter happens, the book failed.

Trump is winning.  The Party Decides is nonsense, and always was.

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