New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reaffirmed his support of the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump on Tuesday, despite calling himself “obviously disappointed” about Trump’s “indefensible” comments about sexual assault in a recently unearthed 2005 video.
Christie is an ex-officio trustee of the University.
He made the comments about the “Trump tape” on Oct. 11 on WFAN, a New York radio station. The tape surfaced at a particularly difficult time for Christie, who, like Indiana Governor Mike Pence, has hitched his political fortunes to the Trump campaign in the face of a difficult, even hostile, political climate in his home state.
Addressing the extent of the problems Christie faces in New Jersey, The Washington Post Editorial Board called out Christie last week as one of the most “widely reviled” governors in the United States, citing recent testimony in the federal trial of the Bridgegate defendants that indicated Christie had knowledge of the Bridgegate scheme as it transpired. A Sept. 20 Rutgers-Eagleton poll, conducted before the first presidential debate, showed Christie’s gubernatorial approval rating at an all-time low of 26 percent.
While Christie’s woes at home have been a constant during his time on the Trump campaign trail, the decline of support for Trump since the first presidential debate and the acceleration of this decrease in support following the Oct. 7 release of the “Trump tape,” has put Christie in a particularly difficult political bind on a national scale.
According to The New York Times, over 160 Republican leaders — have abandoned their support for Trump since the tape’s emergence, either out of principle or out of concern for their reelection bids. However, Christie, an unpopular lame duck governor who has spent the better part of the last year working on Trump’s campaign, including overseeing debate preparation and heading the transition team, finds his political future more inextricably bound up with the fortunes of the Trump campaign than the average Republican governor or member of Congress.
“I still support [Trump], you know, but certainly you take some time to think about that when you’re going through this, but what I would say is that again, you know anybody who hears that video was disturbed by it and offended by it and as well they should be,” Christie said on WFAN Tuesday in response to the tape. “I’ve known him for a long time, and I’m really upset by what I heard, but in the end, this election is about bigger issues than just that.”
Stanley Katz, professor of Public and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School, noted the difficult political situation in which Christie finds himself.
“His lifeline to the press, really, is Trump. Nobody takes him seriously anymore as Governor of New Jersey,” Katz said. “The atmospherics of [Bridgegate] were terrible… Now, it’s worse because he’s being much more directly accused of being involved.”
Katz added that Christie will be in an acute bind if Trump loses the election, saying that his decision to focus on Trump’s campaign at the expense of his governorship over the last year will not appeal to anyone except a core of Trump supporters in the future.
Sofia Gallo ’17 noted she did not think that there was a compelling reason for Christie to stop endorsing Trump, citing the fact that anyone who has endorsed Trump has known from the beginning that he has been prone to making comments of a similarly provocative nature.
Gallo added that she has mixed thoughts on the larger question of the compatibility of voting for Trump as a conscientious conservative.
“What keeps me from completely not voting for Trump is the Supreme Court and the fact that one of the two major candidates will win,” Gallo explained. “As a conservative, we do need, I think, judges on the Supreme Court who will leave social issues up to the states. I’m not even sure that Trump will do that, but he probably will more than Hillary.”
Gallo added that she still found it difficult to support Trump but did not consider abstaining from voting as an option because she considers voting a civic duty.
“I think if we want to help people understand what conservatism is as a political philosophy more than as just, ‘This is what a politician happens to be saying,’ then I think it’s really harmful for us and for people who are conscientiously conservative to advocate for Trump, because the things he [says] violate a lot of what I think are core conservative principles,” Gallo explained. “For those of us who take conservatism seriously as a coherent political philosophy about government, it’s really hard to still support a politician when he’s not actually following those principles… [but] not voting is sort of a way to avoid taking responsibility for the election and the future.”
Jahdziah St. Julien ’18, however, said that Christie’s choice to continue to stand by Trump is concerning because, despite the exodus of other Republican officials from the Trump camp, the allegations of sexual misconduct were still not enough to dissuade Christie from supporting Trump. As to the larger election, St. Julien said that it was still “a shock to the system” that a candidate who made remarks like Trump’s could continue to garner significant support from the American people.
Princeton College Republicans have maintained a position of neutrality on Trump.
Christie’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The third presidential debate will be held on Oct. 19.