It’s been a pretty awful month for NJ Governor Chris Christie. has he gotten a raw deal? Yeah, probably. The media will always go after Republicans ruthlessly at the end of the day, no matter how one tries. It’s no surprise that at the same time he overtook Clinton in polls, “scandals” started surfacing. So, how bad has he fallen? Here’s a brief rundown of the polling numbers as aggregated by RCP.
For the Republican nomination, Christie held the top spot in all 7 GOP primary polls taken in Nov/Dec, 2013 by as much as 9 points. In 3 January polls, he has trailed Mike Huckabee, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and Jeb Bush by as much as 7 points
In the final 3 polls of December, Christie held general election leads of 1, 3, and 2 points. In January, he trailed by an average of 9 points in 4 polls. Meanwhile, Bush, Paul, and Ryan all saw their competitiveness vs Clinton increase into margin-of-error ties.
In Florida, Christie was down just 45-41 vs Clinton. After “bridge-gate” he’s losing 51-35 and faring worse than Bush, Rubio, Paul, and Ryan.
In New Hampshire, home of the nation’s first primary, Christie led Rand Paul by 12 points the week the story broke. By the end of January he trailed Paul by 1 and 7.
Chris Christie’s 2016 Hopes Diminishing Quickly
Candidate Put Eggs in the Wrong Basket
Late last year I wrote about how Chris Christie would be the man to beat in the 2016 presidential primaries and how he was not like Mitt Romney, John McCain, or Bob Dole. His personality seemed to click with voters. His electoral victories were more impressive than Romney, who bailed after one term knowing his re-election chances were slim. Christie even ran as a pro-lifer to no ill effect in blue New Jersey. He was the anti-Republican Republican who gained favor with Democrats and many Independents by bashing his own party and sharing snow cones with President Obama. The polls reflected his popularity with non-conservatives, and even with middling favorability ratings from Republican voters he still was leading primaries and, more importantly, leading Hillary Clinton.
Christie made it through over four years as Governor unscathed and more popular than ever. The hard left hated him. The media tried to get him. The teacher’s unions despised him. But nothing ever really seemed to stick, and the Christie train kept rolling through town. Democrats, Independents, and enough Republicans thought he was a good enough guy, and there didn’t seem to be much that would hurt him. But then the strategy back-fired.
It was a pretty lame scandal to begin with, “bridge-gate” it is called, where a handful of Christie staffers supposedly shut down a bridge one day as payback for the city’s mayor not endorsing Christie’s re-election. It was small potatoes compared to most scandals, including President Obama’s outrageous 2013 government shutdown theatrics. Though there was little evidence initially to even suggest Christie knew about the bridge shutdown, the media full-throatedly implied as much as often as they could. Following bridge-gate came an avalanche of stories about Christie being a bully, and the media pounced on every one of them. The stories were reported on 24/7, not one offering the benefit of the doubt – a benefit they most graciously gave to President Obama at all times even when evidence suggested otherwise. Christie’s “scandals” were reported on more in a day than Hillary’s Benghazi has been in almost two years. I also wonder if this is more or less worse than sticking the IRS on political opponents (fired people to date: 0!), but they have this important Christie stuff to tend to. And no sooner did the stories of the accusers fall apart were the media ready to move on to the next mostly-unsubstantiated story. After three weeks of the media badger-gate, they ran to conduct polls. They undoubtedly patted each other on the backs as the results came in.
5 Years Lost: The End of the Electability Argument
Christie spend 5 years building the perfect political persona. He was a pro-life, pro-business Republican. He went toe-to-toe with the unions publicly, and then was often chummy with them privately. He battled with the media, and usually won. He bashed Republicans frequently while never bashed Democrats. Ever. Christie used social media and the lat-night circuit to up his “hip” factor, and was at ease in doing so similarly to both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. He was the sometimes conservative, sometimes moderate-liberal wise guy who manage to get a lot of Democrats and Independents to like him.
But no sooner did the media finally get something to stick would the floor fall completely out from under him. It was something head-scratchingly lame, and the reporting made him seem guilty or knowledgeable without much fact. Either way it stuck, and 5 years of bashing his own party in order to attract his enemies went down the toilet. And with that support from Democrats and Independents went something else: the argument that Christie would be the most electable. “Electability” is every establishment-thinking strategist’s go to argument. Sarah Palin is unelectable, but this Mitt Romney guy has got it going on! John McCain? The Democrats and Independents and Media love him! What could go wrong? Sure we totally tanked all of our picks for 2012, but we’ll get it right in 2014 and 2016?
Christie’s GOP Problems
Most conservatives think Chris Christie is getting a pretty raw deal. The problem is, they do not care enough to do much about it. There was no Chic-fil-A moment. There was no Duck Dynasty moment. There was no Wisconsin/Scott Walker recall election moment. Conservatives lover a good fight and setting the record straight, especially when the media is involved in a character assassination campaign. But here, conservatives sat on their hands. He had burned to many bridges, bashed conservatives and the tea party one too many times, and hugged one too many Democrats. He was a politician who never seemed interested in helping any other politicians, and conservatives didn’t really feel compelled to help him out or make the media get their facts straightened out. The grassroots saw one of their own get destroyed – likely unfairly – and just didn’t care.
From Most Electable to Unelectable?
Can Christie regain his Democratic voter magic? Many Republicans have tried, few have succeeded. Christie had seemed infallible for quite awhile. It was an impressive feat while it lasted, but he now seems a man without a base. The poll numbers are awful. While they could rebound, his image with Democrats is unlikely to do so enough to carry him with the “electability” mantra. In the GOP primary, Christie went from first to trailing fellow establishment types including Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Paul Ryan, suffering double-digit swings in the wrong direction. 2016 is a long way off and anything can happen, but a month after “bridge-gate” and Christie has at least 99 problems, and a lack of a base is one.