Here's Chris Christie's big problem in a nutshell

Chris Christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has a big problem.

Two years ago, when he was a candidate for governor, he was the big-tent candidate. He was attractive to both conservative and moderate Republican voters. And he attracted a broad swath of traditionally Democratic voters — he won 48% of the Latino vote, one-fifth of the African-American vote, and 31% of Democrats overall.

Two years later, as he officially dips his toe into the race for president, he’s no one’s candidate.

“His issue at this point is that both moderates and conservatives within the GOP hate him,” said Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling. “There was a time when maybe you could see everyone else splitting the conservatives and Christie getting the centrists, but even they don’t like him now.”

Two years after being touted as potentially the GOP’s best hope against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Christie faces a steep uphill climb to the Republican nomination. He’s boxed in by members of his own party who are similar to him ideologically. And he’s lost his appeal as a moderate candidate because people have grown tired of his brash personality.

That is manifesting itself in early-voting states like Iowa — which Christie has been mostly avoiding so far, opting instead to press full-steam ahead into New Hampshire. Home Depot founder Ken Langone, perhaps Christie’s most significant donor and Wall Street supporter, said “the hell with Iowa” in an interview this week, leading to a round of bad press in the state. Iowa Republicans are souring on him, too — just 28% view him favourably, according to a recent Des Moines Register poll, compared with 58% who view him unfavorably.

“His problem is that there isn’t even a single fix for his problems,” Jensen said. “Some people don’t like him because he’s too liberal, some people don’t like him because he’s a jerk, some people don’t like him because he’s a Cowboys fan. It would be hard enough to overcome one of those problems, but near impossible to overcome all of them.”

The chart below shows the change in Christie’s fortunes, illustrating how the percentages of Americans who hold favourable and unfavorable views of the New Jersey governor have shifted over time. Christie’s net favorability peaked in January 2013, when 51% of Americans had a favourable opinion, and just 23% had an unfavorable opinion.

Those numbers have flipped upside-down, with polling last month showing 27% favourable and 55% unfavorable:

Over the past year and a half, different elements have pummelled his image in and out of his home state. There’s the Bridgegate scandal, to which he was never directly linked but which clearly damaged his reputation as an executive.

Then there’s his economic record: He has endured nine credit downgrades, and New Jersey’s credit rating is second-worst in the nation. He has had continual problems with his state’s budget. And Democrats point to the fact that New Jersey ranks 48th in job creation.

“He likes to tell people that he isn’t responsible for New Jersey’s economic failures because he inherited a bad economy,” one Democratic strategist told Business Insider. “But since the Great Recession the country has bounced back and New Jersey’s neighbouring states haven’t just recovered all the jobs they lost — they have added significantly more.”

One poll released this week displayed, in brutal fashion, how his home state’s voters have turned on him. Among the highlights:

  • A clear majority (57%) of New Jerseyans think Christie should resign now that he is officially running for president, compared with 37% who think he should be allowed to stay in office.
  • His approval rating in the state sits at just 36%, compared with 58% who disapprove.
  • Christie trails Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, 49-32, in a hypothetical general-election matchup.
  • Christie also trails his Republican opponents in primary matchups. Republican voters in the state think both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) would make better presidents. And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker draws even with Christie.

Then there’s this: Just 27% of New Jersey residents say Christie would make a good president, compared with 69%. Christie is well aware of this fact, and he has attributed it in an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly to the notion that “a lot of those people … want me to stay” as governor.

But Monmouth followed up with poll respondents in an attempt to fact check Christie’s claim. It found that just 5% who said Christie wouldn’t make a good president said they gave that response because they hope he stays on as governor. On the other hand, 89% confirmed for a second time that they really think he would make a bad president.

“I’m not sure how the governor defines ‘a lot,’ but any common sense usage of the term would have to be significantly greater than five per cent,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

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