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Chris Christie in Free Fall

Chris Christie Victory Speech 2013

The bridge closing scandal seems to have at least temporarily damaged Chris Christie’s public standing.

CNN (“CNN/ORC Poll: Christie’s loss appears to be Clinton’s gain“):

In late November and early December, in the wake of Chris Christie’s landslide re-election victory, the Republican governor from New Jersey was riding high in the polls.

Christie topped the other potential GOP 2016 White House hopefuls in surveys of Republicans’ choice for their next presidential nominee, and he was knotted up with Hillary Clinton in hypothetical general election showdowns.

Now, after month of intense media scrutiny over a couple of controversies in his state, Christie’s numbers have faded, according to a new CNN/ORC International survey.

In a possible 2016 matchup with Clinton, the poll indicates Christie trails the former secretary of state by 16 percentage points, with Clinton at 55% and the Governor at 39% among registered voters nationwide. That’s a dramatic switch from December, when Christie held a 48%-46% edge over Clinton.

“Christie has also lost ground among independents, who were the key to his strong showing late last year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.  “Christie got 59% support among Independents in December.  Now that has dropped to 39%.”

A month of negative attention will do that. Then again, Christie has only fallen to the levels he was at before his re-election boost, so his numbers were likely inflated to begin with.

In more good news for Clinton, the Republican bench behind Christie is thin, indeed:

The survey released Monday indicates that the hunt for the GOP nomination is back to where it was before Christie’s rise in the polls late last year: a pack of potential White House contenders with no obvious frontrunner.

But according to the poll, there is a new name on top of the list in hunt for the GOP nomination: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 Republican presidential candidate.

Fourteen percent of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP say they would likely support Huckabee for their party’s nomination if he runs.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is next at 13% followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Christie tied at 10%.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida are tied at 9%.

One point behind are Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and longtime Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate, stands at 4%.

That’s a change from November, when Christie was 11 points ahead of the rest of the field. Huckabee was not tested in the November survey.

Of course, we’re two years away from the New Hampshire primary. At this point in 2008, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton looked like the inevitable nominees.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Yup…don’t worry…Americans memories are short…and your guy can still recover.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Christie’s fall is no surprise. He used a special election to inflate his electoral #s and that sort of manipulation would be beyond his capabilities in the primaries.

    OTOH I would love to see Ted Cruz run. It would be nothing but a grift, and no doubt the big money boys would fight it tooth and nail because of how far to the right he would drag the rest of the pack. It sure would be fun tho and I suppose that is why it won’t happen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  3. C. Clavin says:

    So if he closes a bridge to get even with a small town Mayor…what’s he gonna do to Harry Reid?
    Cancel all the flights in and out of Vegas?
    I get that he’s the next great white hope for you Republicans.
    But this is really the type of guy you want as President?
    Never mind. It makes perfect sense when you think about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  4. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin: To be clear, Christie isn’t in any sense “my guy.” Of the people currently being mentioned as possible 2016 contenders, I lean towards Jeb Bush but really don’t have any strong favorite.

    @C. Clavin: I don’t think we have any real evidence that Christie ordered the bridge closing. If so, it’s an incredibly stupid and venal move that could certainly derail his candidacy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  5. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Of the people currently being mentioned as possible 2016 contenders, I lean towards Jeb Bush but really don’t have any strong favorite.

    Based on what?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  6. josh says:

    Not sure why the GOP establishment isn’t rallying around Scott Walker.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think we have any real evidence that Christie ordered the bridge closing.

    Not yet, but we do have evidence that his most trusted inner circle and his appointees ordered it. So even if he himself didn’t do the stupid and venal thing, he ran an administration that thought that doing a stupid and venal thing was OK.

    At worst, he ordered it. At best, he’s an ineffective and hands-off manager who appoints untrustworthy people to positions of power and fails to effectively monitor them.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  8. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “To be clear, Christie isn’t in any sense “my guy.””

    True. He’s Doug’s guy, not James’s.

    @Rafer Janders:

    “At worst, he ordered it. At best, he’s an ineffective and hands-off manager who appoints untrustworthy people to positions of power and fails to effectively monitor them.”

    And in the middle (and most likely IMHO), he intentionally selected a staff who has reason to believe he wants this sort of thing done without his fingerprints on it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  9. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:
    As a regular reader I can only infer from the coverage you give topics.
    For instance…post after post after post after post re: the Obamacare website…but crickets since it was fixed and millions have signed up.
    I haven’t done an analysis of any sort…but my sense of it is that y’all were very slow to pick up on the Christie story to begin with…and haven’t really paid attention to the drip drip drip since.
    My bet is if this was Obama we’d be seeing two-a-day updates…proof or not.
    I could be wrong.
    In any case it’s your sand box and you aren’t obligated to post anything.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  10. rudderpedals says:

    @James Joyner: Admirer of lost causes? Memories of Jeb-enabled looting and his maladministration run deep here. If the GOP needs Florida it’ll have to choose someone other than Jeb.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I haven’t done an analysis of any sort…but my sense of it is that y’all were very slow to pick up on the Christie story to begin with…and haven’t really paid attention to the drip drip drip since. My bet is if this was Obama we’d be seeing two-a-day updates…proof or not.

    Not to mention that the only Christie post gets a below-the-fold treatment instead of a “headline” spot with picture, ensuring that fewer people will see it.

    And, of course, there was the earlier dismissal of it as a “three week old local news story” which simply…isn’t true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    @Moosebreath:

    True. He’s Doug’s guy, not James’s.

    Yes, but as a libertarian, Doug isn’t really interested in stories about a public official abusing the coercive power of the state to punish his political enemies via making life difficult for the common citizen….

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  13. Barfour says:

    I think Jeb Bush looks the strongest now among all potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates. The ticket of Bush/Kasich, former and current governors of two of the biggest swing states, will be very strong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  14. PanTechnik says:

    @Barfour: I think Jeb Bush looks the strongest now among all potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates.

    Only if you ignore his last name.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  15. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin: You’re mostly seeing a lull in posting. I’m just not posting nearly as much as I used to and mostly doing big picture rather than news of the day stuff. Doug was out for almost three weeks after his dad died and not posting, and is just starting to get back into it.

    And this is a “Quick Take” rather than a feature post because I only have a couple sentences of commentary here rather than a longer analysis. Every now and again, these kind of posts will get into the regular stream, especially if the most recent post would otherwise be a Caption Contest or one from a couple days ago. But, mostly, they go into the Quick Takes section. Which, oddly, seem to get the same amount of commentary.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  16. jukeboxgrad says:

    James:

    I don’t think we have any real evidence that Christie ordered the bridge closing.

    We already have enough information to be deeply suspicious. Christie’s story doesn’t add up. In his famous press conference he said this:

    what I was told was that it was a traffic study. And there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday that was brought to my attention or anybody else’s attention

    Except there was “evidence to the contrary.” It’s been known for months that local authorities, including police and emergency services, were given zero warning. The bridge manager taking orders from Wildstein was specifically “told not to speak to anyone in Fort Lee.” That’s congruent with a revenge plan, but it’s not remotely congruent with the concept of a legitimate traffic study. You don’t need to be any kind of professional traffic engineer to realize that. This is a giant red flag, and Christie knew this all along. This is sufficient to indicate that he’s still not leveling with us. He’s still trying to use the “traffic study” alibi even though this alibi never made sense.

    Even if you believe that Christie didn’t personally order Revenge Week, it’s important to notice how he behaved after it was over. Over a period of months, while his people orchestrated a coverup, he provided cover for the coverup by suggesting that the lane closure was justified, by supporting the phony “traffic study” alibi, and by mocking and insulting reporters and lawmakers who asked questions. Instead of supporting the effort to find out what happened, he did everything he could to block it. Why?

    The decision to hide the “traffic study” from local emergency services was strong evidence that this was never a real “traffic study.” Why did Christie decide to ignore that evidence? Why did he state falsely at his press conference that no such evidence existed?

    And that’s not the only big red flag. Notice what he said last night:

    Here’s what I’m curious about … What I’m curious about is what happened here. That’s why I authorized an internal investigation. We hired a law firm to come in, do the investigation, they’re working really hard, diligently, and I can’t wait for it to be finished so I can get the full story.

    Now recall what he said on 1/9:

    This morning I’ve terminated the employment of Bridget Kelly, effective immediately. I’ve terminated her employment because she lied to me. … I found this out at 8:50 yesterday morning. By 9:00 this morning, Bridget Kelly was fired. … I have not had any conversation with Bridget Kelly since the email came out. And so she was not given the opportunity to explain to me why she lied because it was so obvious that she had. And I’m, quite frankly, not interested in the explanation at the moment.

    OK, “here’s what I’m curious about.” Right now, Christie “can’t wait for it to be finished so [he] can get the full story.” Gee, if he’s so “curious,” then why didn’t he ask Kelly what happened? Because he already knows, and any such conversation with Kelly would have added to his legal difficulty. What a joke that he has gone from “not interested in the explanation” to “I can’t wait for it to be finished so I can get the full story.”

    As a couple of commenters elsewhere have put it:

    Well gee, don’t you think you could’ve at least asked Bridget Kelly what happened BEFORE you fired her instead of not talking to her at all?

    And:

    Who fires someone without questioning or finding out the facts before firing them? A former US prosecutor who knows how to avoid discovery of his involvement, that’s who.

    There’s a very bad smell here, and it’s only going to get worse.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 0

  17. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “I don’t think we have any real evidence that Christie ordered the bridge closing.”

    Nor was there clear evidence that Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  18. wr says:

    @James Joyner: I do think Doug might well have had fun with the Christie stories, even if it only meant “nothing to see here” posts to drive us commenters crazy. (Oh, don’t deny it!) Obviously Doug has been distracted by urgent matters in his real life. I have a feeling that Chris Christie was pretty close to the bottom of his list of priorities for many weeks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  19. David in KC says:

    Odd, my comment got caught in moderator no man land…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @wr: I think Doug had fun with Christie stories until it became clear there’s likely more here than just a politically motivated gotcha story.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    I lean towards Jeb Bush but really don’t have any strong favorite.

    It would be a sad race, dynasty vs dynasty, but certainly Clinton is a little less dynasty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. C. Clavin says:

    @john personna:
    Even if it’s dynasty vs dynasty…it’s failed dynasty vs successful dynasty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  23. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    It is true that GWB is much the nonperson these days, whereas Bill is able to enjoy celebrity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  24. MarkedMan says:

    It’s entirely possible for a politician to overcome a scandal that occurs two years before the first primary. But I’ll go on the record here as saying Christie cannot overcome this, although I won’t go so far as saying he won’t get the nomination because, hey, Republicans. He can’t overcome it because this is who he is.. He’s a bully, and he likes being a bully and he likes to let people know he is a bully. And that may play in NJ but it won’t play in most of the country. And now reporters are going to be looking in his past and watching for any signs of it in the future, and throwing them out there over and over again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. charon says:

    No mention of Sandy relief funds misuse?

    The US attorney and the Sandy stuff is the show. The GWB lane closure is just Triple A ball in comparison.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. JohnMcC says:

    @charon: Bingo! I bet that Governor Christie and every significant player in his administration is getting very clear mental images of how they would look wearing an orange jumpsuit .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  27. gVOR08 says:

    @charon: Exactly. Last night the news noted Christie got a federal subpoena, several officials involved with Sandy aid got federal subpoenas, Ms Kelly of the lane closure email didn’t.

    I suspect a lot of people are about to discover that being an a*****e is a character flaw, not a political tactic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  28. charon says:

    The US attorney does not give out much information, so all we know about Sandy funds story is what the press uncovers. For example, the legislature disclosed who they sent subpoenas, US attorney did not. So far, there already seems to be pretty spectacular misuse of Sandy funds uncovered though.

    GWB is in the news more because more information has been made public, even though Sandy relief is probably a bigger scandal. There are other scandals bubbling up as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  29. jukeboxgrad says:

    MarkedMan:

    He can’t overcome it because this is who he is.. He’s a bully

    This gets right to the heart of the matter. Politicians carefully manage their public persona, and a scandal will especially grab our attention and do lasting damage if we feel we’re getting a glimpse of the real person who is normally kept hidden. Mitt’s ‘47%’ resonated deeply because people already sensed he was nothing but a shallow, sneering plutocrat (recall the photo of Mitt with his Bain buddies clutching money in their teeth). A commenter elsewhere described that video as a “trenchant window into his withered soul.”

    Bridgegate is fascinating in the same way. There’s drama in seeing proof of what we already suspected about Christie. And notice how he just can’t stop being the bully that he is. “He was publicly accused by his high-school social-studies teacher of deceptive behavior” looks like pathetically desperate bullying, especially since Christie previously praised Wildstein and appointed him to a big job. Which brings me to another astute comment I saw elsewhere:

    In fighting this lane closure scandal, Christie has to convince us that he would never use petty tactics to punish someone who angered him. Instead, emails like this [discussing what Wildstein allegedly did in high school] suggest that Christie’s exactly the type of person who would do that.

    As you said, “this is who he is,” and we’re eager to watch all the coming episodes because we know we can count on him to keep being who he is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  30. grumpy realist says:

    Scandals stick when they confirm what we secretly suspected all along. Hence Watergate and Tricky Dick. Hence why Bridgegate will be brought up over and over again.

    Face it, aside from the Beltway reporters’ love-in with Christie (akin to their love of McCain), nobody really likes Christie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0