With plummeting poll numbers, Gov.Christopher Christie announced his intention last week to run for president of the United States.
Christie is the 14th Republican to announce after Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump.
Christie returned to Livingston High School on Tuesday to make the announcement at a place where as a high school student, he served three consecutive terms as class president.
This is something like rubbing the blarney stone for luck.
It’s clearly the culmination of his political career, and what he most likely dreamed about since his days as a Morris County freeholder. But what is one person’s dream is another person’s nightmare.
Although the press event was designed to reach out to a national audience, the event only rubs salt in the wounds of some New Jersey residents who raise questions about his rise to become one of the most power political figures in the state. Christie has been a political animal almost from the cradle, not just president in high school, but also in junior high school as well.
Some believe he bought his position as U.S. attorney by raising funds for George W. Bush’s first successful run for president in 2000. Critics believe that Christie then used his position as U.S. Attorney to target Democratic elected officials and wayward Republicans as a political platform to become governor.
Now that he is governor, he wants to follow in Bush’s footsteps and become president. Indeed, much of his schedule as governor has him hopping around the country as if he was already a candidate.
The fall from grace
Although once considered a top GOP candidate, Christie has also fallen from grace, more a part of the pack of GOP candidates who won’t be able to reach the finish line.
Christie is known for blunt talk that has critics calling him a bully. Admirers like his up front attitude.
But Christie can’t shake the aftermath of what is called “Bridgegate” – which involved his close confidants allegedly closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge in 2013, allegedly in revenge against the mayor of Fort Lee for failing to endorse Christie’s reelection as governor.
But the lane closures were only the tip of this political iceberg when it became clear that Christie’s close associate David Samson allegedly brokered a number of private deals that appeared to be a series of conflicts of interest. Christie himself appears to have edged into this gray area with his close association with the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, whose company eventually was awarded a lucrative contract for the viewing deck at the Freedom Tower, run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Christie’s willingness to work with Democratic President Barack Obama in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy in 2012 even got some Republicans wondering about him.
Polls by Rutgers-Eagleton show Christie’s popularity taking a nose dive over the past year. In the months that followed superstorm Sandy, Christie had a 70 percent approval rating, these polls showed. He currently has the lowest approval rating since becoming governor.
“Announcing a presidential run with low or declining ratings back home is not unprecedented,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin are in similar situations. Voters elsewhere may not care that much about how New Jerseyans feel, but Christie’s decline has to hurt, especially when his original appeal stemmed from his bipartisan efforts and leadership in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.”
Christie’s 2016 campaign slogan – “Telling it like it is” – takes advantage of the straight-talking attitude for which he is best known, but New Jersey voters have cooled to his brashness, the pollster concludes.
Negativity toward Christie in the past 18 months has affected judgments of Christie as a person (now seen as more bully than trustworthy), his job (no rating crosses the 50 percent mark), and his chances for 2016 (more than four in 10 New Jerseyans said those chances have worsened recently). Christie was viewed as a beacon of bipartisanship in the Sandy aftermath, but now even Republicans in New Jersey have become less inclined to rally behind him, the pollster said. Christie is seen as more stubborn, arrogant, and less trustworthy. The perception of how well he has done his job has also significantly declined.
New Jersey Republicans have split over Christie’s performance on important issues such as taxes, the economy, and job creation.
The pollster paints a bleak picture for Christie’s presidential campaign. Some believe Christie will have a difficult time even winning New Jersey. But this is similar to a situation Bill Clinton faced when running for president in 1992. Those who know him best are least likely to vote for him.
Wefer wades into 4th Ward race in Hoboken
Most people assumed incorrectly that Dana Wefer would not run for City Council in November because she is pregnant.
Speculators claimed that her husband did not want her to run, so Mayor Dawn Zimmer would have to seek some other candidate to run in what appears to be a repeat of the 2013 mayoral debacle. In 2013, a ticket led by Councilman Tim Occhipinti split the anti-Zimmer vote with a ticket led by former Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, allowing the Zimmer ticket to sweep the mayoral and council seats with fewer than half the votes.
In the 4th Ward, Ramos is poised to run against Occhipinti again for the ward seat. This is an opportunity for a Zimmer candidate to take advantage of the situation. Wefer, as chairperson of the Hoboken Housing Authority, successfully drove Carmelo Garcia out of as executive director. While Garcia’s firing does not appear to be political, the move helped cripple a significant base of power. Garcia with access to public housing residents could drum up votes against Zimmer candidates.
Garcia still has influence, but may need all his resources for his own run for council against Jennifer Giattino in the 6th Ward. This means he won’t be able to lend Ramos support even though Ramos and Garcia will likely be part of a joint ticket.
The big question in the 4th Ward is whether or not Jamie Cryan will throw his hat into that council race, further splitting the vote in Wefer’s favor.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.