More Republicans Don’t Want Chris Christie to Run in 2016 Than Do

Embroiled in federal and criminal investigations into his administration, the New Jersey governor is slowly sinking into the muddled field of Republican candidates.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his budget address for fiscal year 2015 to the Legislature, February 25, 2014 at the Statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey.
National Journal
Marina Koren
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Marina Koren
Feb. 26, 2014, 4:10 a.m.

The pro­gnos­is for Chris Christie’s pres­id­en­tial run doesn’t look good.

The New Jer­sey gov­ernor man­aged to main­tain his status as a Re­pub­lic­an fa­vor­ite for a few weeks after the bridge scan­dal broke last month, and his con­stitu­ents haven’t yet giv­en up on him. But new polling re­veals that con­di­tions are now de­teri­or­at­ing in earn­est.

More Re­pub­lic­ans say they do not want Christie to run for pres­id­ent in 2016 (41 per­cent) than say they do (31 per­cent), ac­cord­ing to a New York Times/CBS News poll re­leased Wed­nes­day.

Since the scan­dal spilled out onto the na­tion­al stage, Christie has been stuck between lay­ing low to re­pair his im­age and get­ting out there to con­vince both parties that he’s a for­mid­able 2016 can­did­ate. But as le­gis­lat­ive and fed­er­al in­vest­ig­a­tions con­tin­ue to probe his of­fice, the gov­ernor has little choice but to keep a re­l­at­ively low pro­file. And keep­ing quiet means the Re­pub­lic­an can’t com­bat the slip­ping fa­vor­ab­il­ity num­bers with­in his own party.

It also means Christie is sink­ing back in­to a muddled pool of dozens of po­ten­tial Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates. Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and former Flor­ida Gov. Jeb Bush led Wed­nes­day’s poll. Forty per­cent of self-iden­ti­fied mem­bers of the Re­pub­lic­an Party said they hoped the politi­cians would run, but 21 per­cent said they hoped Paul wouldn’t and 27 per­cent said the same for Bush. Thirty-two per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans say they want Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida to run, but more do not know enough about him to say wheth­er he should. Twenty-four per­cent said they’d like to see Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas run, but 59 per­cent don’t know enough about him to de­cide.

Re­pub­lic­ans may op­pose a Christie run be­cause more of them now have a strong opin­ion about him as a po­ten­tial lead­er, thanks to his big­ger na­tion­al pro­file com­pared with oth­er po­ten­tial can­did­ates, and in part to his of­fice’s in­volve­ment in a re­tali­ation plot. Christie’s com­pet­it­ors have, so far, avoided any troub­ling events that would neg­at­ively sway party sup­port.

Still, all the num­bers point to one con­clu­sion: If there is a Re­pub­lic­an front-run­ner, and it doesn’t look like there’s a strong one, it’s not Christie.

Demo­crats, on the oth­er hand, seem to be united on their fa­vor­ite. More than eight in 10 Demo­crats said they want Hil­lary Clin­ton to run in 2016 — a level of in­terest un­matched by oth­er po­ten­tial can­did­ates, Demo­crat or Re­pub­lic­an. A ma­jor­ity were un­able to give their opin­ions about some oth­er po­ten­tial Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates, sug­gest­ing that Clin­ton dom­in­ates the field.

The pres­id­en­tial race is still, of course, two years away. But Demo­crats’ tun­nel vis­ion can only mean good things for a po­ten­tial Clin­ton cam­paign. As does Chris Christie’s slow re­leg­a­tion to the peri­phery.

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