The scheme to hold a separate special election this October, after party primaries in August, allows Christie to accomplish more positive things than I would have thought possible. On the surface, every politician wants to be able to publicly proclaim that what he did was the most democratic (with a small "d") choice for the most people, and by letting people vote on the Senate seat as early as possible (most predicted the vote wouldn't be until November 2013 or maybe even November 2014) he can plausibly claim that's what he did. Indeed, he stated at today's announcement: ""The process to fill this United States Senate seat must allow the people to have a voice." That may be contrived rhetoric on Christie's part, but I think it will resonate with New Jersey's largest voting bloc, independents.
Indeed, the political insiders in both parties don't like Christie's plan, which I think was exactly what he was going for. What's the practical impact? I think you can spin it a lot of ways -- some have said that the compressed time frame will help whatever Republican Christie appoints for the next four months. I don't think so, I think this special election scheme is really going to help the best-known person who wants the job -- and that is a Democrat, Newark mayor Cory Booker.
Of course, he could have just appointed Booker now -- but why wave a red flag in front of GOP primary voters if he still harbors dreams of running in 2016, especially when he can rig things so that Booker will win it on his own. And as many have noted, he'd rather have Booker win in October than overshadow his re-election in November. He also could have done what the GOP bosses wanted -- which was to appoint a Republican and then not have the election until 17 months from now, in November 2014. But a) the 2014 election may not have held up in court and b) I don't Christie really wanted someone filibustering President Obama for a year and a half, not while Obama remains popular in New Jersey.
But here's another prediction, and it's a sad one for those of us fantasizing about Sen. Springsteen (which would raise the number of senators who care about poverty to, um, 1): I think he'll pick a conservative Republican as interim senator for the next five months, and campaign for him or her in the fall. Remember a) a more conservative foe will help Booker, not hurt him and b) presidential candidate Christie can then claim -- plausibly, if not truthfully -- that he did everything for the cause.
None of this will really help or hurt Christie's presidential candidacy, because I'm fairly certain that there's already no way Christie can ever be elected president. Once he embraced Obama during Superstorm Sandy, there was absolutely nothing -- NOTHING -- that Christie could do to woo back the kingmaker of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, or the mouth-breathing Obama-hating voters in the Deep South who have an outsized influence in GOP affairs. And the independent path is even less plausible, since no independent has even come close to winning and Christie has alienated too many conservatives (see above) and too many liberals with his teacher-bullying and his flip flops on their issues like climate change.