After getting bumped from the stage of tonight’s fourth Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will need to deliver a dazzling performance in the one-hour “undercard” event to try to keep his struggling campaign alive at least until the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary early next year.
Just when it looked as if things couldn’t get much worse for Christie’s once promising campaign --amid lingering fallout from the “Bridgegate” scandal and a seemingly endless series of state government budget and pension woes -- an heartfelt impromptu lament about a friend who died of a drug overdose has suddenly prompted many voters to take another look at this campaign.
During a recent campaign stop in a tavern in Belmont, N.H., Christie related emotional personal anecdotes about his late mother’s addiction to tobacco and a law school friend who died tragically after becoming addicted to prescription painkillers.
The New Jersey Republican, who for years has advocated for treatment over incarceration, told the gathering, "And as I sat there as the governor of New Jersey at his funeral and looked across the pew at his three daughters sobbing because their dad is gone, there but for the grace of God go I. It can happen to anyone. We need to start treating people in this country, not jailing them. We need to give them the tools they need to recover, because every life is precious.”
A video of that appearance quickly went viral.
We can expect to be treated to more of that pathos this evening when Christie joins Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum for the one-hour warmup by Republican candidates with polling numbers so low that they couldn’t make the cut for two-hour debate, which will be sponsored by Fox Business News Network and The Wall Street Journal.
Christie says he’s undeterred by the abrupt demotion to the kiddies’ table and that he is prepared to debate his opponents any time and any place. But just when he seemed to be getting a little lift from his impromptu comments on the tragedy of drug addition, a 2 to 1 majority of all New Jersey residents delivered an unwelcome message – to abandon his campaign and come home.
A new Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday showed that only 53 percent of New Jersey Republicans say Christie should continue his long-shot bid for the GOP presidential nomination, while 40 percent say he should drop out. Not surprisingly, New Jersey Democrats say by a margin of 77 percent to 16 percent that the governor should drop out.
Voters in both parties give Christie failing grades for his handling of the economy, jobs, education and the state budget although they agree that he is a “strong leader.” They appear divided over whether the governor is honest and trustworthy, and they say he does not care about their needs and problems by a 53 to 43 percent margin.
“New Jersey voters think 2-1 that Gov. Christie should drop the dream that seemed so possible a couple of years ago, before Bridgegate – a story that Democrats stoked for better than a year and that drove the governor’s poll numbers down, down, down,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll.