Christie: Weak at home, but don’t count him out

Gov. Chris Christie

Gov. Chris Christie (Photo courtesy of the New Jersey governor’s office.)

By Maurice Carroll
Assistant Director of the Quinnipiac University Poll

What a difference.

In 2012, reporters swarmed into the State House in Trenton to watch Gov. Chris Christie, the hope of Republicans disenchanted with Mitt Romney, announce that he’d run for President. He disappointed them. He said he wasn’t ready for the White House; that he’d stay as Governor of New Jersey.

In 2015, in advance of the presidential election, he visited his old high school in Livingston to announce that he’d run. He was widely judged as just one of the huge Republican pack, after more than a year being pummeled in the New Jersey press.

But there’s one constant in the two scenes — he still has to be taken seriously.

The “Jersey guy” governor confronts a hostile home-state news media. He’s been a punch-line in the so-called “bridge-gate” story almost since his second-term election. And Jeb Bush, heir to a political dynasty and sitting on a huge pot of money, has assumed Christie’s one-time role as the favorite of the Republican establishment.

So the current question seems to be: Can Christie carry New Hampshire?

Probably not, as long as Bush is around — and there’s no reason to expect he won’t be.

Still, the New Jersey governor has hopes. His numbers in the Quinnipiac University presidential polls have been dismal — low single digits in our June “swing state” poll of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, in ninth place at 4 percent in our May national poll (even, humiliatingly, behind Donald Trump). And he led in his home state in April with a depressingly low 22 percent.

But everyone else has low numbers, too.

Bush is no slouch at retail campaigning, but Christie is a natural at it. His town-hall-style, honed in an endless series of meetings at home in New Jersey, is perfect for New Hampshire, whose coddled primary voters expect — and are accustomed to — personal attention.

Why hasn’t he been able to sew up support at home, usually a prerequisite for politicians who want to be President?

That’s a persistent question in New Jersey. A combative, quotable, colorful candidate, the sort that reporters love to cover, he’s gone out of his way to antagonize some of the very good reporters who work in New Jersey and he faces remorseless hostility in two key places, the Newark Star-Ledger and the seven Gannett newspapers.

The “Jersey guy” stuff can’t explain it. Sure, his in-your-face style can be off-putting, but the people who cover him are “Jersey guys” (and girls), too. They mostly enjoy that attitude; it makes for good news stories. But did it make sense for him to bar the Trenton reporters from a meeting with outof-staters during his state-of-the-state address.

It all stems from “bridge-gate”, Trenton reporters say. After dragging out an investigation for more than a year, the U.S. Attorney finally found that Christie had no personal role in that puzzlingly sophomoric tie up of George Washington Bridge traffic in the small Bergen County town of Fort Lee (as a political pay-back for the mayor). But, as the speculative headlines persisted, a governor who had met regularly with reporters suddenly vanished from regular press contact. And the negative news droned on.

Will that basically silly story kill a presidential hope that once seemed so strong?

We’ll see.

Categories: Quinnipiac Poll

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