Chris Christie is still thinking about running for president in 2016. In perhaps one of the most straightfoward answers the embattled New Jersey governor has given on the topic, Christie responded to CBS News’ Bob Schieffer’s question of whether he was thinking of running for president and when he would make a decision: “Yes, and later.”
Adamant that the George Washington Bridge scandal will have little impact on his political career, Christie predicted that despite a lengthy investigation and the firing of top aides, it will be nothing more than a “footnote” by election time. But despite his confidence, voters and donors seem more skeptical.
A Fairleigh Dickson University PublicMind poll conducted in March showed that Christie’s approval ratings had dropped to an all-time low, with only 41 percent responding favorably to the governor, and 44 percent negatively. Since November, public opinion has been steadily declining, with the latest figures representing a 20-point drop from his standing last year. Despite strong initial backing for Christie immediately following allegations that he knew about the bridge lane closures, continuing investigations that appear to further implicate him and reveal inconsistencies have eroded public support.
In another Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, only 17 percent of Americans approved of Christie, while 32 percent disapproved. This represents an increasingly large gap between approval and disapproval ratings; in January, the same poll found that 22 percent of respondents saw him positively and 29 percent negatively. Most damning of all, no political group, including his own, saw Christie in a positive light. By a 28 to 12 percent margin, independents regarded him negatively, and 29 percent of Republicans disapproved of Christie, while only 23 percent approved.
While Democrats have a clear frontrunner for their 2016 presidential ticket in Hillary Clinton, the GOP is suffering from a severe lack of strong candidates. In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, none of the top five contenders for the Republican nomination manage to break 15 percent in support, with Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) barely edging out Mike Huckabee to tie for first place at 14 percent. Chris Christie just manages to clear double digits, with only 10 percent of voters hoping he will run for president.
Beyond waning public support for the governor, further complications emerged on Wednesday concerning Bridgegate. One of Christie’s former top political advisors, Bill Stepien, who was largely responsible for Christie’s landslide re-election victory in 2013, publicly disagreed with the internal investigation’s report. Stepien is now threatening legal action for what he says are misrepresentations of his involvement in the scandal. The report claims that Stepien lied to Christie about his knowledge of the George Washington Bridge plot. Stepien, who was fired as a result of the scandal, has said that he was unfairly punished by the governor, and is the second former Christie administration employee to come forward with accusations of errors in the report.
As Christie continues to accumulate former friends, it is hard not to wonder how their enmity may affect the final outcome of the scandal — and he presidential ambitions. For the moment, he appears determined to press forward.
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Copyright 2014 The National Memo