Chris Christie may be under political fire at home in deep-blue New Jersey, but he’s not too radioactive for Senate Republicans, who hosted the governor at a New York fundraiser.
With a real shot at winning the six seats they need to take the majority, Senate Republicans invited Christie — whose ability to raise money in the wealthy Acela Corridor is well known — to speak Tuesday at the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s winter policy meeting.
“The governor is still very, very popular amongst our donor base and the party,” said Rob Jesmer, a former executive director of the NRSC, which hosted the event at the Harvard Club in Manhattan.
For Senate Republicans, the speech came as they gather momentum. In January, the NRSC had its best fundraising performance yet in this election cycle, raising about $4.62 million. Their electoral map is also expanding, thanks in part to help from outside groups like Americans for Prosperity in states like Michigan and Iowa. They’ll need all the help they can get because Senate Democrats posted record January fundraising figures as well, hauling $6.55 million.
For Christie, the speech was a chance to meet with donors, candidates, and lawmakers and deliver the message that Republicans can “compete and win in all corners of this country, including blue states,” an aide to Christie said.
That might be the case, but Christie definitely faces headwinds at home.
The governor is confronting a barrage of criticism since revelations that a member of his inner circle ordered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, seemingly for political reasons. The aide has since been fired, but the controversy has angered Garden State Democrats and cost Christie in the polls.
New Jersey Democrats seized on the news that Christie rescheduled a town hall this week — the first since the damaging revelations — but managed to make it to address Senate Republicans. “Governor Christie believes skipping off to New York City to solicit funds takes precedence over accountability. His priorities are seriously out of whack,” said New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie in a statement.
In fact, the town hall in Port Monmouth, N.J., was rescheduled to Thursday because Christie delayed the opening of state offices due to a snowstorm.
Christie’s appeal as a presidential candidate since the scandal has also taken a dive. In a recent CNN/ORC poll, voters preferred Hillary Clinton by 16 points, a major change from an earlier poll that had shown Christie with a two-point lead.
Christie is also suffering among Republican primary voters, according to the same poll, which showed him tied for third place behind 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. In an earlier poll, Christie led the rest of the field by 11 points.
Despite the decline in the polls, Christie’s ability to raise money seems undiminished. As the head of the Republican Governors Association, he crisscrosses the country raising money to help elect Republicans. In Texas earlier this month he helped raise $1.5 million, and in January the RGA hauled in $6 million — a record for that month, according to an RGA spokesperson.
Some say Christie’s ability to raise money will help rehabilitate his image in advance of 2016. “Despite what’s happened in the past couple of weeks, he is still going to be a very formidable candidate for president,” Jesmer said.