And well they should be. Already at a nearly 2-1 registration disadvantage with a left-leaning group of independent voters, Republicans feel that Governor Chris Christie's decision to hold a special election in October to fill out the term of the deceased Frank Lautenberg, puts them at a decided disadvantage.
Republicans are fuming over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's decision to hold an early special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, with several Washington-based operatives suggesting he's putting his own interests ahead of the GOP's. The decision to hold a separate special election in October 2013-just two weeks before his own election-would give any interested Republican candidates little time to announce, organize a campaign, and raise the necessary money to take on a top-tier Democrat, likely Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
Christie announced at a Tuesday press conference that the election to fill Lautenberg's seat will be held Oct. 16, just before his own gubernatorial election on Nov. 4. The primaries would be scheduled for Aug. 13. Christie acknowledged he was legally able to schedule a special election in November 2014, but he wanted New Jersey voters to elect their senator as soon as possible. Christie was less clear about whether he was legally allowed to schedule an election to coincide with his own, emphasizing that he didn't want to waste any time in seating the newly elected member. On several occasions, he repeated his decision had nothing to do with politics.
"There's no political purpose. The political purpose is to give the people a voice," Christie said. "The issues facing the United States Senate are too important not to have an elected representative making those decisions."
The governor's decision, along with growing GOP expectations that his appointee will be a placeholder, means that the GOP's chance at a pickup now looks like a long shot. But Christie protected his own interests by scheduling a separate 2013 election, ensuring that Booker wouldn't usher a surge of Democratic voters that could hurt Christie's November prospects.
Christie has very high approval ratings, even among Democrats, but he didn't want to take a chance that a tidal wave of black voters and "tolerant" whites would go to the polls to elect a black Senator. Many in the Republican party have apparently had enough of Christie's machinations:
While none wanted to be quoted publicly, all dripped with disdain for Christie's decision, calling it self-serving. And several pointed to the fact that holding an extra election one month earlier could cost the state about $25 million--a price tag that could dent his image as a fiscal hawk.
"I think this ends his 2016 chances. It's year after year with this guy," complained one senior Republican official.
I'm not sure that this affects Christie's chances one way or another. He was already in deep trouble with the right wing of the party for his embrace of Obama just days before the election, plus his positions on gun control, the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, and immigration reform.
Christie's only hope to be competitive in the presidential race at this point is a sea change in the Republican party. It's probably not going to happen by 2016 which means that Christie probably felt justified in removing a threat to his own re-election.