New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has suffered setback after setback in recent days. His rough stretch has included a major blow to his state’s budget, sagging popularity at home, and the loss of a senior staff member.
On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported one of Christie’s closest and most veteran advisers, Michael Drewniak, will suddenly resign. Drewniak was the governor’s press secretary and he had been with Christie since his days as New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney. His exit follows a number of top aides who departed after Christie’s infamous 2013 “Bridgegate” scandal, including his spokesman, main political strategist, chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, director of intergovernmental affairs, and Port Authority chairman.
Even more notable, Christie is set to give his sixth state budget address Tuesday afternoon, but major questions persist as to whether he’ll be able to accomplish what he undoubtedly hopes will win him favour among GOP voters: a state in solid fiscal shape and no tax increases.
A judge ruled on Monday that Christie’s previous budget maneuvers broke the law and ordered the state to make payments to its pension system that the governor tried to delay. As a result, Christie will now be “scrambling” to pay $US1.57 billion in payments to the state pension system, according to The New York Times. Christie’s spokesman vowed to appeal the decision, which he called “liberal judicial activism.” (The judge in question was appointed by one of Christie’s Republican predecessors.)
“This is a major, dramatic development which really changes the scope and tenor of the governor’s speech,” State Senator Mike Doherty (R) said of the ruling, according to The Express-Times. “The day of reckoning has arrived in New Jersey.”
Christie’s embattled state budget has a myriad of other problems, including a depleted transportation fund, and competing claims about a pension deal with unions. Additionally, New Jersey has had its credit rating repeatedly downgraded. Christie blames his predecessors for leaving the state in poor fiscal health, but it’s unclear whether voters will take such a nuanced view.
Christie’s 2016 campaign operation has also come under scrutiny. An attempt to burnish his foreign policy credentials with a February trip to London turned into a disaster after Christie defended parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids — temporarily transforming the entire presidential contest into a vaccination debate. He closed the trip by cancelling multiple press conferences and refusing to answer questions. And one of his rivals has raised questions about his relationship with influential billionaire megadonor Sheldon Adelson.
All these events have apparently not helped Christie win favour in New Jersey. A new poll this month had Christie’s popularity with his own state’s voters dipping to an all-time low. Just 37% of Garden State voters gave him a favourable rating.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why Christie could still be a major factor in the 2016 race. He has larger-than-life personality and performs well at retail politics. Chirstie is also one of the best fund-raisers in the Republican Party. He doesn’t need to be popular in the left-leaning New Jersey electorate to win over Republican voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina. And there’s plenty of time before the first Iowans cast their votes early next year.
“Let’s not forget that at the end of the day this is about candidates and their message. Christie is a superior communicator who operates well in the face of the media circus,” a close Christie ally told Business Insider in January. “Christie has the raw talent and experience and is as well-positioned as anyone.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.