Chris Christie is tired of yelling at New Jersey, so he'd like to yell at America now.
Standing on a podium in his high school gymnasium, surrounded by his family and talking about his factory worker dad, Christie announced his candidacy at a rally that felt at times like a Bruce Springsteen song rewritten by a college Republican trying to make himself feel just a little cooler. The sitting Governor of New Jersey spoke off the cuff about telling Americans the hard truths and making us all work together.
But in order for Christie to lumber into the lead in a Republican clown car primary that now boasts 14 candidates, he's going to need to raise a lot of money. That's where things get interesting.
See, Christie is bucking the 2016 trend and running with rather open arms towards Wall Street. His state is host to a ton of financial services jobs and even more residents who work in the industry. He's made no secret of cozying up to conservative money men like Ken Langone, Woody Johnson or Dan Loeb. He's even taking economic advice from private equity executives:
One adviser is Robert E. Grady, a former Carlyle Group LP partner, who in March joined San Francisco-based Gryphon Investors Inc., a private-equity firm, after resigning as chairman of the New Jersey State Investment Council. Grady, who lives in Wyoming, accompanied the governor last year on trade and energy policy trips to Mexico and Canada. He was a speechwriter and aide in the administrations of Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Christie is also, and literally, in bed with Wall Street. His wife Mary Pat was a banker at Goldman and then Angelo Gordon, but is taking a little time off to wife it up on the campaign trail.
All these financial ties should make it easy as eating pie for Christie to just funnel a steady stream of cash from Manhattan C Suites, through the Holland Tunnel and into his campaign coffers. But that's not looking like it's gonna happen.
Donors appear to be approaching 2016 as an investment, and Christie keeps giving them pause. Many said they worry about getting behind him only to see him unravel later, much the way Rudy Giuliani did in the 2008 presidential race.The Democratic research super PAC American Bridge put together a Christie greatest hits of his outbursts, titled “Bully,” and several donors mentioned having seen it. The super PAC, which has deployed camera-toting trackers to Christie events, is showing no signs of letting up.
Aside from Langone, who remains Christie's most devoted sugar daddy, many of the billionaires that once loved Big Chrissie are now frightened to back a candidate who acts like the meanest jock in the locker and is beset by scandals like the George Washington Bridge closure or failing to disclose that New Jersey's pension funds are paying high Wall Street management fees.
Johnson is really more of a Jeb guy these days and Loeb has been evasive about who he wants to go to the Republican prom with, meaning that a lot of money that Christie could have counted on like 18 months ago is up for grabs in a primary that suddenly looks like a mosh pit at a Yacht Rock concert.
That said, Christie is a polished politician with a high national profile and chief executive of a state that people with money live in, making him immediately more appealing than the Bobby Jindals and Rand Pauls whom many wealthy Republican donors are being forced to consider.
So, Chris Christie has jumped into the 2016 candidate pool and will surely make waves, and not only because he's so very fat