Pollster: Chris Christie Is Too Moderate To Win GOP Nomination

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 07, 2015 8:30 PM
Pollster: Chris Christie Is Too Moderate To Win GOP Nomination

For all you Christie detractors, you will probably enjoy the news from pollster/data cruncher Nate Silver, who suggested that the New Jersey Republican is too moderate to win the GOP nomination. Jeb Bush is more conservative than Christie, and Silver is skeptical that Mr. Christie could be successful in the invisible primary; “a tumultuous time of speechmaking, fundraising, coalition-building and constant travel, as they seek to boost their name recognition, stand out from the field, and secure the GOP nomination once the voting begins,” according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

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With other big names, like Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush mulling presidential runs of their own, it seems hard for Christie to stand out. He survived the insanely ludicrous media circus over the so-called “bridgegate,” but his national approval ratings have dipped; he’s pretty much where every other possible GOP candidate is in the polls concerning a theoretical head-to-head match-up with Clinton.

While Silver mentions that Christie isn’t totally damaged goods, he also noted that the governor’s dip in his favorability ratings undercuts the electability narrative he could use to sell to voters, who might otherwise reject him for his moderate stripes (via FiveThirtyEight):

Christie, however, ranks to the left of Bush by the statistical systems that measure candidate ideology.

Indeed, Christie takes moderate positions on the very issues where Bush notoriously deviates from the party base — such as immigration and education — along with others where Bush lands in the GOP mainstream, like on gun control. (Christie has a C grade from the National Rifle Association.) Any voter who opposes Bush for ideological reasons probably won’t find a lot to like in Christie either.

He probably lacks the discipline to win the “invisible primary.” The candidates who survive the early stage of the invisible primary tend to be those who avoid making news when they don’t need to. Donors and other influential Republicans won’t want to nominate a candidate who will risk blowing a general election because of a gaffe or scandal that hits at the wrong time.

Christie’s transgressions against Republican orthodoxy and tendency to make the wrong kind of news can amplify one another. If Christie were seen as a staunch conservative, Republicans might be more inclined to rally around him and critique the “liberal media” for persecuting him. But Christie has not always been a team player for the GOP. His speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention seemed to go out of its way to avoid praising Romney. And Christie’s embrace of President Obama as the two toured seaside communities hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 also rankled many in the GOP.

He no longer has a good “electability” case. The decline in Christie’s favorability has also translated into his overall numbers.

His head-to-head numbers against Hillary Clinton are no longer any better than those of fellow Republicans Bush and Mike Huckabee.

This isn’t catastrophic unto itself. There are lots of unpopular politicians in both parties. The head-to-head numbers don’t mean much yet, and many Republican voters would come around to Christie were he to win the nomination. But Christie’s case to Republicans is especially dependent on his perceived ability to win the general election.

But, you never know. Christie is a good retail politician, and he isn’t afraid to enter very un-friendly territory to start conversations about the issues at townhall meetings (possibly pick up some votes in the process). In the 2013 gubernatorial races, Christie had an easier time coasting to victory in deep-blue New Jersey than Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia, whose environment is considerably more favorable to Republicans.

He also won the women’s vote, the Hispanic vote, and more than doubled his share of the vote among African-Americans in his 2013 re-election bid.

These are good points, which are lost when you look at the economic state of New Jersey. The state’s property taxes are still out of control. They rose 13 percent in the first three years after Christie's 2009 win, and rose again at a modest 1.7 percent last year.

The Garden State has the worst tax climate for business, and is ranked as one of the worst states to make a living.  Christie is also dealing with a budget shortfall that was $275 million more than what was originally projected; the initial forecast was $1.3 billion.  Like health care with Romney, being the governor of a state where the business climate is awful doesn’t bode well for a successful national campaign message, especially when the base already thinks you’re too moderate.

One last note: We’ve already nominated a losing Republican candidate from the liberal Northeast in 2012. Let’s be more careful this time.