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Eye On Candidates
December 2, 2015

Christie Positioned to Rise

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has enjoyed a resurgence of attention in recent weeks, in part because of a perceived or at least expected shift in many primary voters’ priorities towards national security issues. In recent days there have been several articles suggesting that Christie may be poised to be the “surprise” candidate of 2016, rising from the bottom of the pack to serious contender status. Here is National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar with an assessment:

The Case for Chris Christie’s Political Comeback

New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie of­fers a case study in the fu­til­ity of ob­sess­ing over polls at the ex­pense of everything else. If you just look at his na­tion­al and early-state num­bers, which still hov­er in the low single-di­gits, it would be easy to con­clude that he faces near-im­possible odds of win­ning the GOP’s pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion; by the former meas­ure, he was left off the stage at the last Re­pub­lic­an de­bate. But after con­sid­er­ing the gov­ernor’s stra­tegic dis­cip­line—win New Hamp­shire or else—and for­tu­it­ous mes­sage fo­cused on na­tion­al se­cur­ity and law-and-or­der is­sues, it’s clear that Christie is well-po­si­tioned for a polit­ic­al comeback….

His en­tire cam­paign now rests on the fickle voters of New Hamp­shire, where he has held 36 town-hall meet­ings and where his cam­paign and su­per PAC have spent most of their $6.4 mil­lion in ad­vert­ising. A strong per­form­ance in the Gran­ite State—fin­ish­ing at the top of the es­tab­lish­ment-friendly field, or a close second—would al­ter the tra­ject­ory of the Re­pub­lic­an race. Mo­mentum is everything in pres­id­en­tial polit­ics, and a Christie comeback would turn around his flag­ging fun­drais­ing in time for the ex­pens­ive March primary battles. Donors have al­ways liked Christie, but backed away when his pro­spects looked long.

Des­pite Christie’s re­lent­less ef­fort in the state, the polit­ic­al re­turn has been mixed. Most con­sequen­tially, he’s be­gin­ning to over­come much of the res­ist­ance from Re­pub­lic­an voters who viewed him as too mod­er­ate to be the party’s stand­ard-bear­er. His em­brace of Pres­id­ent Obama after Su­per­storm Sandy has been over­shad­owed by his acid­ic at­tacks against the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hand­ling of na­tion­al se­cur­ity.  

His fa­vor­able/un­fa­vor­able rat­ing in New Hamp­shire is now an en­cour­aging 51/30, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Bo­ston Globe/Suf­folk Uni­versity poll. His net fa­vor­ables are a tick bet­ter than Jeb Bush and John Kasich, and are trend­ing up­wards….

One of the most encouraging signs for Christie’s campaign is his recent endorsement from the New Hampshire Union Leader, the most prominent newspaper in the state and long regarded as a conservative news outlet:

The New Hamp­shire Uni­on Lead­er offered Christie an early, glow­ing en­dorse­ment head­lined: “For our safety, for our fu­ture: Chris Christie.” While the pa­per’s track re­cord of pick­ing win­ners isn’t great, it’s not­able that the con­ser­vat­ive ed­it­or­i­al board picked a can­did­ate per­ceived as too mod­er­ate. The pa­per holds a sol­id track re­cord sway­ing un­com­mit­ted voters, and in such a crowded field, their back­ing car­ries more weight. In ad­di­tion, Christie has been rack­ing up sup­port from pivotal New Hamp­shire in­siders, an im­port­ant in­dic­at­or of voter back­ing down the road.

Kraushaar notes that Christie still faces headwinds, most notably the fact that he still lags behind his competitors in the polls. But he is nevertheless bullish on Christie’s chances:

Still, it’s strik­ing that Christie has a path­way to vic­tory when his cam­paign looked to be on life sup­port not long ago. His polit­ic­al for­tunes are akin to his ho­met­own New York Gi­ants—a real shot at mak­ing the (polit­ic­al) play­offs, but need­ing oth­er cam­paigns to col­lapse. To pre­vail in New Hamp­shire, he’ll need to win over sup­port from the oth­er ex­ec­ut­ives—Bush, Kasich, and Carly Fior­ina—while po­ten­tially peel­ing off some of Trump’s wide­spread sup­port. For everything to break his way is plaus­ible, but a risky bet.

Usu­ally, two can­did­ates emerge from the polit­ic­al rubble of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hamp­shire primar­ies. This year, we could see four: Trump as the can­did­ate of GOP pop­u­lists, Cruz or Car­son as the evan­gel­ic­als’ pick, Ru­bio as the early es­tab­lish­ment fa­vor­ite, and Christie as the es­tab­lish­ment al­tern­at­ive eager to con­trast his ex­ec­ut­ive ex­per­i­ence against first-term sen­at­ors, a neurosur­geon, and a real­ity-show star.

CNN politics reporter Tom Lobianco explores Christie’s chances, and raises a simple question – is the New Jersey governor’s rise too little, too late?

The New Hampshire primary, which is crucial to Christie's presidential prospects, is just over two months away and the New Jersey governor is in seventh place in the state. Nationally, his low single-digit support places him just slightly ahead of candidates like former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.

And he still faces some familiar drawbacks that include a warm embrace of President Barack Obama after Hurricane Sandy and the Bridgegate scandal, which dampened much of the Christie enthusiasm before he even entered the race.

This is a critical stretch for Christie to break out of the bottom tier of candidates. If he can't capitalize on the endorsements from the paper and GOP activists Dan and Renee Plummer, as well as increased media attention between now and the final Republican debate of 2015, on December 15, the question becomes whether he will ever be able to move up in the polls.

Seeking to make the most of the moment, Christie will be on Capitol Hill meeting with Republican members of Congress tomorrow, reports Politico:

The New Jersey governor is inviting congressional lawmakers, lobbyists, and operatives to a Thursday evening “meet-and-greet” at the Capitol Hill Club, a GOP hangout adjacent to the offices of the Republican National Committee, according to two sources familiar with the planning for the gathering. Co-hosting the meeting are New Jersey Reps. Tom MacArthur, Leonard Lance, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Frank LoBiondo, Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan, and Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks. All are supporting Christie.

Christie’s real challenge is to sustain the growing interest in his candidacy and avoid the fates of two candidates who have enjoyed similar moments in the spotlight, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Carson appears to be fading after the increased attention brought increased scrutiny of his statements, while Fiorina appears not to have had the organizational infrastructure in place to sustain the momentum she earned after two stellar debate performances. Christie is a seasoned politician, however, and it could be that he winds up with a strong finish in New Hampshire and vaults into contention for the Republican nomination.