As discussed previously, Governor Chris Christie is finding a lot of positive news in hypothetical polls for 2016. At the same time, he still is not seen as strong enough to eclipse Hillary Clinton if she were to run and win the Democratic nomination but comes the closest among the likely field of GOP contenders. While doing best against Clinton, Christie continues to struggle to eclipse multiple potential GOP presidential contenders. During most of the first half of the year, polls have been shaping that outlook. As the summer months commenced, more polls would come out and a similar story has continued to be written.
The first one would showcase what Iowa voters are feeling about the potential presidential field in 2016. The Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll like other polls earlier this year showed Christie performing the best against Clinton. At the same time, Iowa Republicans like conservative voters in other polls view him least favorable. It is a continuing narrative for the New Jersey governor as he does best against Clinton, but will GOP primary voters trust him enough to give him a chance to face her if she were the Democratic nominee.
As Tom Jensen, Director of PPP, explains;
There’s absolutely no doubt that Governor Christie would be the strongest Republican in the general election. There's sort of this weird dichotomy. He has the most Republicans unhappy with him, but the most moderates and independents who are happy with him.
When Republicans in Iowa are asked to name their most preferred candidate, they list Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI1), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Christie. The four are with four percentage points of one another. Compared to a similar survey earlier in the year, Christie seems to be gaining some traction among conservative voters.
Going further, Christie has a 45% favorability rating compared to a 27% unfavorability rating. That might not seem half way decent at this point, but he trails the favorability ratings of multiple potential opponents. Ryan has a 68% favorability rating, Paul has a 60% favorability rating, Bush has a 58% favorability rating, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has a 57% favorability rating, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has a 54% favorability rating. All five do not have an unfavorability above 17%.
As mentioned, Iowa GOP respondents have softened a bit to Christie as his 27% unfavorability is a decrease from 33% earlier this year. His favorability rating has jumped nine points.
Jensen would add,
I really do think it was all the working with Obama stuff that hurt his numbers not just in Iowa, but everywhere we were polling in the beginning of the year. The memory of that is sort of fading.
Hoping to garner some more conservative support, Christie would take aim at President Barack Obama's leadership by stating,
I know when we look at Washington right now and we shake our heads in wonder at a president who can't figure out how to lead. That's what happens when you have someone in the executive office who is more concerned about being right than he's concerned about getting things done.
While multiple potential GOP contenders are still outpolling him, Christie in this poll still does best against Clinton as he only trails her by 7 percentage points with Ryan, Paul, Rubio, and Bush following behind him.
Shortly after the PPP poll came one from Quinnipiac University that showed a matchup between Clinton and Christie still favoring her despite high favorable numbers for both. The poll showed the former Secretary of State leading Christie 46-40. It shows a slightly closer race than a similar poll earlier this year that showed a 45-37 edge for Clinton. In terms of favorability ratings, Clinton had a 55% favorability rating while Christie had a 45% favorability rating. Christie has a better unfavorability rating as only 18% view him unfavorable compared to 38% who view Clinton unfavorable.
Last week, a Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind poll would continue to show Clinton and Christie on a potential collision course. Clinton in the poll leads Vice President Joe Biden by a 63-10 margin with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Elizabeth Warren getting single digits. While Christie leads Paul by a 51-10 margin. Christie and Paul had a minor feud going during July and August and could provide interesting fodder if they were to go against each other in 2016.
As Krista Jenkins, Director of PublicMind and a political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, would outline;
The recent verbal exchange between Christie and Paul, two men considered strong candidates for the Republican nomination in 2016, highlighted considerable differences within the Republican party. Whether because of familiarity or other attributes, New Jersey Republicans would clearly rather see Christie as the nominee than Paul or other frequently mentioned possibilities.
These polls and the others earlier this year have some like former Governor Tom Kean, Sr. viewing Christie as a strong candidate and someone who should certainly consider a run. Kean sees the GOP at a crossroads and must do a lot of thinking moving towards 2016. Kean would highlight what is seen in mostly every poll: Christie does best among potential GOP contenders against Clinton but still trails multiple GOP contenders among conservative especially somewhere like Iowa. Thus, it is the argument of do you choose the person who can win the general election or the person who best reflects base principles of the party.
They can nominate somebody who touches all the conservative bases and you'll get 40 something percent of the vote and the Democrats will win or they can pick somebody who is like Christie who spans the spectrum and brings a whole lot of folks that aren't Republicans into the party - much like Ronald Reagan did - and win. I think people are looking for honesty and straightforwardness and he does that well. If he goes ahead and runs it's going to be the party's choice. He's probably the one who gives the party the best chance against Hillary (Clinton). Whether they want somebody to give them the best chance or they want a true believer is up to them.
Kean also warns against Christie trying to appease conservative voters too much by adding,
That's always a mistake. You can take your views that are already conservative and emphasize those things but if you actually look as though you're changing your beliefs voters see right through it.
There should be more polls to come that will continue to reflect what Kean mentions. Also, Clinton and Christie will likely continue to poll well and talk of a potential matchup will be part of many polls. The same can be said of how much Christie can appeal to Republican voters compared to other candidates that have been thrown out as potential candidates. It should be interesting to see how his reelection campaign and likely reelection will play in polls during the latter part of 2013 and into 2014.