Countdown of Christie’s Final Days: What Legacy Does He Leave?
After serving two terms as governor, Chris Christie has about a week left in office and he delivers his final state of the state address on Tuesday.
“The governor is going to try and sum up his eight years in Trenton, which have been significant,” said Ben Dworkin, a political science professor and director of the Institute for Public Policy at Rowan University.
Dworkin expects Christie to talk about the fact that he held the line on taxes and his bipartisan efforts to reauthorized the Transportation Trust Fund with a gas tax hike.
“He’ll talk about tenure reform, he’ll talk about his efforts to allow the pension system to get on better footing, he’ll talk about changing the culture in Trenton," he said.
Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said Christie will probably also mention how he helped to enact reforms to the pension system and criminal bail, reconfiguring the state’s medical school and “he’s certainly going to focus on his response when Sandy hit, which was certainly the high point in his terms.”
“I think we should also expect him to talk about the strength of the economy, the number of new jobs, and the fact that we’re not nearly as bad as we were in 2009 when he first got elected," he added.
He also expects Christie to touch on efforts to fight the opioid abuse epidemic.
“This is his swan song. This is his last real chance to talk to all of New Jersey and to put his entire tenure in a particular context.”
The Republican governor is being succeeded by Democrat Phil Murphy, who ran against Christie's lieutenant governor.
Murray said we should not expect the governor talk about criticisms leveled against him, including for being out of the state too during his aborted campaign for president.
He believes Christie will use the speech to set himself up for his next job.
“There’s no question that he wants to remain in the spotlight. Certainly politically he hasn’t given up on his ambitions.”
So what will the Christie legacy be?
“He wants to be remembered as the guy who came from humble beginnings and came to Trenton to tell the truth,” said Dworkin.
“The guy who you might not agree with everything he said but you certainly knew where he stood.”
As for how history will remember Christie, Dworkin said for the next few year it’ll be hard to get past “the 'gates, both Bridge and Beach,” but a decade from now things will be a bit different.
“I think you’re going to see people talking about the Christie administration as a group of folks who had tremendous success in the first few years, and thereafter sporadic.”
Murray said Christie leaves office as the least popular governor in 50 years. But over time, criticisms of politicians in New Jersey tend to soften.
“When we look back at Christie in 10 years' time, it won’t be a 15 percent approval rating; it will be somewhat higher than that. The question is how high.”