NJ Has Few Fond Memories of Christie, Scant Interest in Prez Run
Time might heal all wounds, but New Jerseyans' memories are long, and they do not have many positive recollections of Gov. Chris Christie, as revealed in a new Monmouth University poll.
Persistent whispers that Christie may seek the Republican nomination for president for a second time in the next election cycle have not met with much enthusiasm from his former constituents, with only about 1 in 10 people wanting to see him run.
Nearly 6 in 10, meanwhile, say no way, according to Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Christie earned high marks in his first term as governor for his blunt personality and especially his response to Superstorm Sandy, but the poll revealed that the storm was foremost on the minds of only 9% of residents when asked about their memories of the two-termer.
Much fresher was the Bridgegate scandal, which dominated much of his second term, and the "Beachgate" meme that resulted from a news helicopter capturing him out in the sun at a closed Island Beach State Park.
Plus, there was the matter of his first run for president, an uphill climb against longtime friend Donald Trump, which took Christie out of New Jersey for much of 2015 and early 2016.
"There's this sense that he put himself before the state, and that was really what drove his numbers down, was the sense that his ambition was more important than doing his job as governor," Murray said.
After dropping out of the 2016 race, Christie endorsed Trump, and later assisted the president with debate preparation during the 2020 cycle, but it was during that time that Christie and Trump both contracted COVID-19.
Upon recovering and being released from the hospital, Christie spoke out, both in public service announcements and in his role as an ABC News contributor, in favor of vigilant mask-wearing and social distancing, measures Trump was hesitant to endorse.
However, that splinter with Trump, plus repeated urgings for the president to give up his election result challenges, was not enough to sway Republican sentiment with regard to Christie. More New Jersey Republicans (53%) actually have a favorable opinion of him now than when he left the governor's office (43%) in 2018.
"That might help him a little bit with that group, but it's kind of solidified the anti-Christie sentiment among the majority of New Jerseyans," Murray said.
Even so, Murray said it's entirely conceivable that Christie could mount a successful bid for the presidency without the backing of his home state.
"New Jersey doesn't matter anymore," Murray said. "It doesn't matter in presidential politics. It's a solidly blue state and it's going to remain a solidly blue state, even if Chris Christie is on the ballot in November 2024."
While Christie's minus-38 "net favorability" rating (26% favorable, 64% unfavorable) ranked last among all living ex-governors, attitudes have softened on some other unpopular governors of the past, like Jim Florio (-1), Jim McGreevey (-6), and Jon Corzine (-11).
As for the current governor, he held steady through the COVID pandemic, with a plus-16 net rating.
"There's a sense that New Jersey is coming out of this about as well as one could expect, considering how hard we were hit, and that means that Phil Murphy will get good marks overall," Murray said.
The only former governor to top Murphy in Monmouth's metric was Tom Kean, who's still at plus-19 favorability more than 30 years after leaving office, although more than half of respondents (53%) have no opinion — and perhaps no memory — of his tenure.