The phone calls from lower Manhattan this month to area codes 305 and 608 will be interesting. More specifically, those calls will reveal how many of the big-money Wall Street figures who have been backing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for the Republican presidential nomination are sounding out Jeb Bush and Scott Walker as alternatives.
Bush, the former governor of Florida and the son and brother of former presidents, and Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, appear to be the two immediate beneficiaries of Christie's political slide.
More than a few Republican politicians think it's almost impossible for the New Jersey governor to recover from the controversies and scandals that have hit him in recent weeks. Even if there are no legal ramifications, the aura of Christie as a plain-spoken, populist winner has been shattered. The money people often don't catch on as quickly, though if this political prognosis is correct, they will desert Christie soon.
Bush would be the most natural heir as the moderate conservative presidential candidate. He compiled a strong policy record as a two-term governor. However, people who know Bush still doubt he'll run, citing the strain on his family and the political hangover from the presidency of his brother George W. Bush.
Scott Walker also may fit the mold, a moderate conservative with success in a Democratic state. But Walker first has to win re-election this November. That is also the case for another possible Christie alternative, Governor John Kasich of Ohio.
There is also speculation over whether Christie can stay on as head of the Republican Governors Association, a post from which he planned to campaign for candidates around the country. If he steps aside -- and the Christie camp has insisted he won't -- a possible replacement there would be Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.)
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