Maybe it was one too many stories about “Bridgegate,” or the ongoing saga of New Jersey’s troubled financial picture, or Gov. Chris Christie’s own off-the-cuff suggestion that parents should have “some measure of choice” in whether their kids are vaccinated against measles.
Whatever the reasons, Christie’s early standing in the 2016 GOP presidential contest is rapidly declining.
The latest evidence is a new Quinnipiac University poll of three battleground states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. While several of Christie’s GOP rivals – including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee – perform well against Democrat Hillary Clinton in hypothetical matchups in at least one of those states, Christie is skunked by the former Secretary of State in all three states.
In this early look at possible 2016 presidential matchups, the hard-charging Christie is the poorest performing Republican, trailing Hillary Clinton by margins of five to 10 percentage points, while each of the other Republicans is running a competitive race in at least one of the states. Christie trails Clinton in Colorado by a margin of 43 percent to 34 percent, in Iowa by 44 percent to 34 percent, and in Virginia by 44 percent to 39 percent.
By contrast, the libertarian Paul trails Clinton in Colorado by just 43 percent to 41 percent, in Iowa by 45 percent to 37 percent, and in Virginia by 44 percent to 42 percent.
“Several GOP contenders can take some solace from this poll, although Hillary Clinton remains queen of the public opinion hill at this point,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a statement. “The one GOP [candidate] for whom these numbers are a total drag is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.”
The Washington Post’s political column, “The Fix,” recently downgraded his prospects, saying, “Increasingly, it’s looking as if Christie missed his window for running for president [in 2016].” A recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll shows that his favorable rating in New Jersey has dropped to 37 percent, after topping out at nearly 70 percent. The Fix also noted that polls of likely GOP voters in Iowa and New Hampshire show Christie is the most “unliked” potential GOP candidate aside from Donald Trump.
Christie once seemed on a fast track toward the GOP presidential nomination after a strong reelection victory and favorable national publicity. But revelations more than a year ago that some of his aides arranged to close Fort Lee, N.J., access lanes to the George Washington Bridge to retaliate against the city’s Democratic mayor who did not back Christie’s November 2013 reelection hurt his standing.
Recently, two reports, commissioned by the state legislature and Christie’s office, failed to turn up any evidence that Christie participated in the scheme or knew about it as it happened. However, the U.S. attorney’s office is conducting a criminal investigation; there is no indication of when that will be concluded.
Christie has other headaches as well. The governor and his wife traveled on lavish trips, in the U.S. and abroad, with foreign governments and businessmen picking up the tab, The New York Times reported recently. Christie has also had to wrestle with state budget deficits and shortfalls in the pension program.
During a three-day trade mission to London this month, Christie said the government should “balance” parent choice and public health when it comes to the measles vaccination, contradicting many public health experts. Christie’s staff later walked back the comments, saying the governor believed “there is no question” that children should be vaccinated.
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