New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) may be trailing other likely 2016 candidates in early polls, but he has what some observers describe as an understated asset: the ability to easily interact with almost any voter, face-to-face.
Christie, brusque when dealing with critics, showed his sensitive side on Tuesday during a Town Hall meeting in Freehold, New Jersey, when he took a question from a 12-year-old Boy Scout, Zachary Seemar, who lost his home in Hurricane Sandy.
Dressed in his scouting regalia, the youngster explained how he and family “have been living in a camper that we bought in place of what is left of our home for almost two-and-a-half years now.”
“I would like to ask you if you are aware of how difficult Bricktown’s permits review process is for families like ours trying to rebuild,” he said. “I would just like to know why and who at the state level can help.”
Visibly touched by Seemar’s inquiry, Christie expressed his admiration for the young resident and tried to explain the bureaucracy of the state.
“I am aware of how long this permitting process has taken in a lot of places, in some places they’re doing it really well and in some places they’re not doing it as well as they need to,” Christie said. “We want to get you back in your home and get you back there as quickly as you possibly can. So we’ll work with you to try to help and work with your family.”
Seton Hall Political Science Professor Matthew Hale wrote on Twitter that Christie’s interaction with the boy was indicative of his larger talents as a candidate.
“This kind of stuff matters in NH and Iowa and no one is better at it than” Christie, Hale said.
Christie’s approach to these types of town hall events earned him a large national fan base during the 2012 Republican presidential primary, though he opted not to run. However, his reputation has since taken a beating due to the Bridgegate scandal in 2013 and New Jersey’s deep economic problems.
The Wall Street Journal warned in early March that Christie was in a “deep hole,” based on a WSJ/NBC poll that indicated GOP voters opposed his candidacy. More than half — 57% — of Republican respondents said they couldn’t see themselves supporting Christie in the primary. Only real estate mogul Donald Trump faced worse results, with 74% of respondents saying they couldn’t envision supporting the reality television star.
But Christie supporters think he has a way out. A close Christie ally touted the governor’s fundraising ability along with his “raw talent” as a communicator in a January conversation with Business Insider.
“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,” the ally said.
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