Christie Up But Challenged in IA, OH

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

Governor Chris Christie stumping in Iowa during Election 2012.
Governor Chris Christie stumping in Iowa during Election 2012.

Pass the 2013 mashed potatoes, Save Jerseyans, and the put the 2014 jello mold on ice. Your 2016 course is already warming and ready to be served this Thanksgiving day whether you’re ready for it or not.

We had two new Election 2016 polls hit this week and both contain conditionally good news for the New Jersey frontrunner.

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are the 2016 leaders to Ohio voters, locked in a statistical tie,” said Peter Brown, director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute; its latest poll showed Chris Christie performing the strongest against Hilldawg in battleground Ohio, losing by 1-point (42% to 41%). “Ms. Clinton easily defeats a bevy of other potential GOP aspirants. Interestingly, when voters are asked whether she would make a good president, more say yes, than say they would vote for her. Conversely, Vice President Joseph Biden is not presidential material in the eyes of Ohioans. Only 28 percent think he would be a good president.”

Another poll conducted by Harper Polling has Governor Christie leading a hypothetical GOP Iowa caucus field with 17% backing, but Ted Cruz is right behind him at 16% (h/t The same polling outfit found a similar result in South Carolina at the end of October.

Note that I did say this is “conditionally” good news. Let’s discuss the conditions. It’s easy to look at these results and conclude “well, Christie is performing the best of the Republican field, so he’s the clear front runner, which is a great place to be two years out from the first primary elections.” You wouldn’t be wrong.

Sure. But it’s also a position fraught with peril. A double-edged sword. Ask Mitt Romney. Chris Christie’s RGA chairmanship will afford him with a full year of opportunities to prove, very visibly, that he’s a party guy interested in electing conservatives. He’s also swimming upstream against a significant portion of the national GOP base that’s convinced he’s a “RINO.” His primary antagonists will take every opportunity to reinforce this perception with Rand Paul in the lead position.

Other findings deeper in the polls raise other questions.

Harper found that “Clinton would make a good president, Ohio voters say 54 – 40 percent, the best score of any contender measured here, followed by Christie 44 – 32 percent. No other candidate gets a positive score, with Kasich at a negative 32 – 49 percent.” Why is Christie down only 1-point to Clinton but 10-points in terms of the “good president” analysis? Is this just statistical noise from a single survey? Or are we seeing some evidence of a potential disconnect between the Governor’s tough Jersey guy persona and more mild-mannered mid-westerners? We’ll know when we know.

Early surveys are also discovering that Christie performs best among “moderates” and young voters (those between age 18 and 35). The former group makes up an increasingly small percentage of the electorate in most early states; the latter group is notoriously unpredictable in terms of actual Election Day turnout. Without shoring up his weak self-described “conservative” support (a challenge for the New Jerseyans which we’ve discussed longer than anyone out there), Chris Christie’s campaign is going to need to rely on (1) a very creative GOTV and (2) maintaining a crowded primary field in which Christie can win a majority of the delegates with modest pluralities.

I don’t have all of the answers, Save Jerseyans. I do know the right questions to ask. We’ll work on it together over the next few years.

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