Chris Christie tanks: Why new numbers could spell doom for his 2016 run

Amid Bridgegate and pension firestorms, the NJ Governor's approval reaches a near-record low

Published October 1, 2014 12:06PM (EDT)

Chris Christie                                    (AP/Matt Rourke)
Chris Christie (AP/Matt Rourke)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s approval rating is at a near-record low, according to a brand new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning. The finding comes amid a drip-drip-drip of revelations concerning gross mismanagement of the state’s $81 billion pension fund.

Less than a year after Christie trounced Democratic opponent Barbara Buono 60 to 38 percent, Christie’s approval rating stands at just 46 percent, with 45 percent disapproving of the governor’s performance. While he’s still barely above water, it represents his worst performance in the Quinnipiac poll since a June 2011 survey pegged his approval at 44 percent.

Moreover, Christie’s slide comes less than two years after he recorded sky-high approval ratings in the months following Hurricane Sandy. A February 2013 Quinnipiac poll showed the governor with a 74 percent approval rating, and a July 2013 poll found Christie’s approval at 68 percent. Even in the immediate aftermath of news that Christie’s aides had ordered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, Quinnipiac still had Christie’s approval at 55 percent in a January survey.

But continued scrutiny of the governor’s role in the scandal – did he issue the ultimate directive to close the lanes, or is he merely an incompetent manager who can’t control his closest aides? – appears to have taken its toll, as have new revelations surrounding the state’s pension fund. David Sirota has meticulously documented how, at a cost of $3.8 billion to New Jersey taxpayers, Christie pension chief Robert Grady has shifted pension investments toward firms whose employees have backed Christie and his political interests, as well as toward a private equity fund in which Grady’s own firm is an investor.

The state’s pensions are now $104 billion in the red, and analysts have cited New Jersey’s pension woes as a key reason the state’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times during Christie’s less than five-year tenure.

Quinnipiac didn’t ask respondents about either the Bridgegate or pension firestorms in its latest poll, but there’s no doubt Christie finds himself considerably diminished in the state. The poll found the governor, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, trailing Hillary Clinton by 10 points in a potential match-up, 50 to 40 percent. Clinton leads Christie by 20 points among women, while Christie maintains a mere three point lead among men. Independents in the state back Clinton over Christie by 46 to 40 percent.

Not only do the latest numbers out of New Jersey demonstrate the damage done to Christie over the course of his nascent second term. They also undercut a central argument put forth by backers of a Christie 2016 campaign – that he’s the type of conservative who can win blue and purple state votes. And as Christie moves to ingratiate himself to the party’s conservative base ahead of 2016, it’s not inconceivable that his numbers at home won’t be recovering any time soon.

By Luke Brinker

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