Who Will Chris Christie Appoint to Frank Lautenberg’s Seat? (Hint: Probably Not a Democrat)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg was one of the last lion-heharted liberals, as obituaries have noted over the last 24 hours, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—a Republican, after all—probably won’t appoint somebody in that mold to replace the deceased senator.
Among the names floated as possible placeholders, Republican state lawmakers Joe Kyrillos and Tom Kean, Jr.; and even a Democrat, Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Booker had already announced he would run for Lautenberg’s seat in 2014.
Political scientist Bill Rosenberg says Christie could score big points for a gubernatorial re-election by reaching across party lines for Booker.
“But the problem with that,” according to Rosenberg, “is that it would probably seal his fate of not really moving forward with the Republican Party anymore.”
Of course, it’s possible — though less likely — that Christie would appoint a Democrat to the seat. He is campaigning as a bipartisan governor in a very blue state, after all. Tapping a Democrat would be seen as a major stroke of bipartisanship. Replacing a Democrat with a Democrat and then saying the voters should decide what happens next in November would no doubt be very well received by Democrats and moderates.
But such a move would be politically perilous for Christie and would run the risk of angering Republicans, the last thing Christie needs if he has any designs on running for president in 2016. He has already stoked some concern among conservatives by embracing President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Christie will face pressure from some Democrats and Republicans, who will likely treat the appointment as a litmus test. The dilemma was already apparent on Monday, as Christie was met with headlines like the Drudge Report’s, featuring a picture of Christie with President Obama, and asking, “Whose side are you on?”
One possible consideration for Christie: If he does make an appointment, how much heed will he pay to issues like where the pick stands on immigration reform, on which a Senate vote is expected soon? And will the appointment come before or after that crucial vote?