Will the Most Unpopular Governor in America Try to Appoint Himself to the Senate?

It might take an intense investigative hunt to find people in New Jersey who think Christie should go to the Senate if the Menendez seat comes open in 2017. Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

It takes several hypotheticals to get to a scenario where the least popular governor in America, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, appoints himself to the United States Senate.

First of all, embattled Democratic senator Robert Menendez would have to be convicted in his ongoing corruption trial. Then Menendez would have either to resign (very unlikely) or be expelled (not impossible but tricky) by the Senate before Chris Christie leaves the governorship in January. And technically, even then Christie could not appoint himself: He’d have to resign with the understanding that his lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, would ascend to the governorship and then send her mentor to Washington.

That adds another variable to the equation: If the Senate opening were to occur before November 7, the 2017 election day in New Jersey, it seems a mite improbable that Guadagno, who as the GOP nominee to succeed Christie has been struggling to separate herself from the incumbent, would choose to indelibly link herself to him until the end of time by giving him a Senate appointment.

So let’s stipulate it’s all a very long shot. If it were to happen, however, New Jersey voters would not smile upon the development, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac:

Only 3 percent of voters say Gov. Christie should appoint himself as U.S. Senator if Sen. Robert Menendez is forced to leave the Senate. Another 24 percent say Christie should appoint someone else and 68 percent say Christie should wait for the new governor to appoint a Senator to replace Menendez. 

You don’t have to be a data geek to understand that 3 percent approaches the absolute minimum of support a polling proposition can receive, if only because of random response errors. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a lower number for anybody or anything.

This represents a kind of experiment in combining a bad idea involving an immensely unpopular politician. Governors appointing themselves (or having themselves appointed by hand-picked successors) to the Senate have in eight of nine cases — the sole exception being Kentucky’s Happy Chandler in 1940 — lost the next time they faced voters. And many of them were popular before making the fatal move.

But Chris Christie has lost interest in his popularity of late, probably regarding it as the ultimate lost cause. When asked about the possibility of appointing himself to the Senate last month, he responded as though it were a decision that didn’t involve him personally:

“I don’t see that happening,” he said. “I really do believe that some of us are built for executive positions and some of us are built for legislative positions.”

Not exactly a Sherman Statement, is it? My guess is that if the stars aligned, and Menendez was out of the way and Kim Guadagno was a lame duck who decided she’d like to end her career as a governor and knew sending Christie to Washington would be the only way to make that happen, then Christie would look deep within himself and find some previously unknown legislative capacity. Sure, he’d be gone by November 2018 at the latest, but he’d have a nice résumé-enhancer for the rest of his life.

Will America’s Least Popular Gov. Appoint Himself to Senate?