Why Senate Republicans Still Want Christie on Their Side

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attends his election night event after winning a second term at the Asbury Park Convention Hall on November 05, 2013 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Incumbent Governor Chris Christie defeated his Democratic opponent Barbara Buono by a commanding margin. 
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Michael Catalini
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Michael Catalini
Feb. 18, 2014, 3:06 p.m.

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.

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