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What is Chris Christie’s Donald Trump endgame?

Joe Raedle/Getty

In 1964, Richard Nixon was one of only a handful of mainstream Republicans to campaign for Barry Goldwater, and he did so feverishly, crisscrossing the country to give speeches on the nutty Arizona senator’s behalf even when it was clear that he was going to lose in a landslide, which he did. But his tireless work on Goldwater’s behalf paid dividends in 1968, when Nixon, once a has-been and a loser, secured the nomination and was elected president.

Chris Christie is in something of a similar position in Donald Trump’s campaign. According to a New York Times piece published on Thursday, Christie has “quietly emerged as one of the most influential advisers” on his team. Christie was reportedly instrumental in the firing of embattled campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and has taken a leading role in attempting to shore up Trump’s donor base and intra-party support. He’s also leading Trump’s transition team and is being vetted as a possible vice-presidential candidate.

But this new Christie is, as the Times notes, a far cry from the “boastfully independent blue-state politician determined to win over female, Hispanic, and Asian voters.” Christie seems to be betting that Trumpism is the party’s future, reprising the role Nixon played in 1964 by building up credibility with the party’s base that he can then exploit in 2020. But Christie’s past persona is more in line with the demographic changes that will dictate the country’s future. And if Trump loses in a landslide and Christie is a close ally (or vice presidential pick), Christie will likely absorb some of the Trump taint.

Of course, another possibility is that Christie doesn’t really know what he’s doing, that he just likes being around men he thinks of as powerful and important, and that Donald Trump is just filling the Bruce Springsteen-shaped hole in his heart.