Chris Christie

Photo courtesy of Leadership Matters

Chris Christie’s Negative Baggage
| published March 18 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may be close to fully vindicated in the so-called Bridgegate fiasco, but his position near the top of the pack of the potential Republican presidential candidates is in jeopardy because of a problem in his polling: Christie, though possibly the best known of the GOP contenders, carries a lot of negative baggage among rank-and-file Republicans.

Recent polls by the Gallup organization show that Christie’s unfavorable ratings are higher than those of his presumed GOP competitors. The New Jersey Governor earns a favorable opinion from about 40% of all Republicans, but suffers somewhat by receiving an unfavorable score from 31% of those polled. The good news for Christie: his name recognition soars at more than 70%.

Though no Republican has made it completely official that they intend to run, the field of potential candidates—those who are showing all the signs of running and those who appear merely interested—has swelled to more than a dozen candidates.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has quickly surpassed Christie as the leader among those actively raising cash, and Bush’s star has risen dramatically in the last 45 days since he began campaigning in earnest. Bush’s fundraising efforts have already eclipsed all other candidates, and some experts believe that it has been Bush’s success at pinning down both supporters and cash which nudged Mitt Romney out of the race. But Christie has been undeterred as well, raising cash and making frequent appearances in Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida—all early caucus and primary states.

Christie is not along among potential GOP candidates with unusually high unfavorable ratings among Republican voters: Rick Santorum, a candidate from the 2012 cycle, earns a 21% unfavorable score, as compared to his 35% favorable rating; Bush gets a strong 56% favorable rating and a whopping 76% familiarity score, but also carries a heavy unfavorable score of 20%.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Surgeon Ben Carson each carry great weight with Tea Party and movement conservative Republicans, but each also fail to generate traction because of a lack of name-recognition. Carson is known to only about 39% of those surveyed; Walker is known to about 46% (though he carries a negative score of only 5%). Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal also comes in with low recognition numbers with about 40% of all GOP voters surveyed saying that they are familiar with him.

Much of this will shift with time, and experts point out that the early debates between the candidates can easily and dramatically sway the opinions of primary and caucus voters. Political analysts point out that past debates in 2008 and 2012 sent stock soaring from relative unknowns, such as Mike Huckabee (2008) and Herman Cain (2012).

The Republican field for 2016 is crowded with candidates who see an opportunity in the coming months. Potential candidates include Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee—just to name a few.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Ben Carson Enters GOP Contest; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; March 14, 2015.

Will Florida Produce Two Presidential Candidates?; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; March 7, 2015.