There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that Never-Trump Republicans can ever find a way to take back control of the GOP. The party is owned by the former president now, and most of the alternatives are only alternatives in that they've embraced Trumpism but they're not morons. Everybody else is pretty much in exile or dodging death threats.
But maybe there's still a sliver of hope for the Never Trumpers, and it comes from — of all people — Chris Christie.
The former New Jersey governor sounds ready to take on the mantle of challenging Trump from within the party. In a new interview with Axios published Thursday, Christie once again made the case that it's time for the GOP to stop litigating the 2020 election and instead look ahead. "I want to spend my time combating the policies of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — and trying to help Republicans win governorships and the House and the Senate in 2022," he said.
That's the kind of thing that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says often, but nobody's touting him as the great Never-Trump Hope. What makes Christie different is that he isn't ducking Trump's attacks on any Republican who says such things. "I'm not gonna get into a back-and-forth with Donald Trump," Christie told Axios. "But what I will say is this: When I ran for reelection in 2013, I got 60 percent of the vote. When he ran for reelection, he lost to Joe Biden."
Why does Christie have a chance? Because in some ways he was the ur-Trump, a politician who rocketed to fame a decade ago by snarling and verbally beating up on Democrats — as well as the occasional public school teacher — before the former president really made an art of it on Twitter. If Never Trumpers are looking for somebody who is willing to respect the electoral process while also appealing to the Republican Party's "but he fights!" base, Christie might be their man.
There are drawbacks. Christie did leave office with just a 19 percent approval rating, under the cloud of the George Washington bridge scandal. He memorably lost a presidential primary to Trump once. And given how Christie aided and abetted Trump for much of the last five years, some Never Trumpers think the former governor is a bit late to the party.
What other options are there, though? It's unlikely that Never-Trump Republicans can continue to be both "Never Trump" and "Republican." But if they're going to keep trying, Chris Christie might just be their best choice.