By Melissa Hayes, The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) (TNS)
TRENTON, N.J. — As he prepares to announce his presidential intentions, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plans to take his town hall-style events — and his team’s ability to cut key exchanges and lines from them for social media blasts — to New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Christie has used those events in New Jersey and his social media operation to take on public employee unions, push policy initiatives, tussle with critics and chastise beachfront property owners for not allowing sand dunes. But the gatherings also have allowed him to show a softer side, sharing stories of his late mother, his children’s concerns about his potential presidential bid, and stories about what it’s like to try to pick up dry cleaning with a security detail.
Now, with his approval rating at home at an all-time low and his rankings in presidential polls dropping, Christie will take the events that helped him gain a reputation as a straight shooter to a key early voting state next week — a move that could give him a much-needed boost as he mulls running in 2016.
Christie’s political action committee announced the “Tell It Like It Is” town hall series with an online invitation to the first event, set for April 15 in Londonderry, N.H., a town about 40 miles north of Boston. The governor also will hold a town hall on April 17, said Samantha Smith, a spokeswoman for the political action committee Leadership Matters for America, adding that more information on that event is forthcoming.
Christie plans to spend four days in New Hampshire next week, including April 17-18 for the New Hampshire GOP’s two-day First in the Nation Summit. It’s his first multi-day trip to a key presidential voting state this year, and the first time he’ll hold town halls outside New Jersey.
“I think he’s very talented with town hall meetings, and they’ve proven in a state like New Hampshire to be a recipe for success,” said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College.
Christie made multiple trips to New Hampshire last year to campaign for Walt Havenstein, a Republican who ran for governor. But this year he’s been to the Granite State only once, to give the keynote address at the Merrimack County/Concord City Republican Committee Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in February. Other Republican hopefuls have been spending far more time there.
“I think in any state, activists will say that candidates haven’t been there enough, but the truth is we have about 10 months to go before the New Hampshire primary,” Levesque said.
Christie, who has said he’ll decide in the next three months whether to run in 2016, is expected to make a strong push in New Hampshire. Matt Mowers, who worked for Christie’s administration and went on to become executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, is Leadership Matters’ state director, and the PAC recently hired Matthew Moroney, a field director for Havenstein last year, to oversee operations in New Hampshire.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Poll, said the governor could use a boost from the events next week. A national Monmouth University Poll released Monday showed Christie’s favorability has dropped.
“It is his best shot at getting back some of his mojo, and it has to be real one-on-one,” Murray said. “New Hampshire voters are used to having the ability to go one-on-one with presidential candidates.”
The Monmouth Poll has Christie getting just 5 percent of the vote in a New Hampshire primary, losing in potential matchups against former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (13 percent), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas (both 11 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (9 percent), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and billionaire Donald Trump (both 7 percent); and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky (6 percent). Like Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry got 5 percent. Because of such low tallies, Murray said the race is wide open. The poll also gauged favorability. Christie, who had a two-point positive rating in December, now has a negative rating. Forty-two percent of voters said they view Christie unfavorably, compared with 33 percent who have a favorable view.
“Christie’s favorable numbers have gone down the more voters have gotten to know him,” Murray said. “He made his name and reputation on his ability to interact with people, so he’s going back to the well on that. The question is whether it plays the same in Hanover, N.H., as it does in Hanover, N.J.”
The New Hampshire town halls are expected to be smaller than the governor’s New Jersey events, which have drawn hundreds of people to schools, community centers, gymnasiums, and boardwalks across the state.
(c)2015 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
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