Desperate Republicans, panicking over the pathetically weak field of presidential hopefuls (a Fox focus group declared the winner of last week’s GOP debate to be Godfather Pizza founder Herb Cain), are still holding out hope that New Jersey governor Chris Christie doesn’t really mean it when he swears he won’t run in 2012. Even heartland conservatives are certain that the tough-talking East Coaster—who to much of the country reads like the offspring of Tony Soprano and Snookie—is their long-awaited Great White Hope.
On May 31, a group of small-government Iowa Republicans will make a pilgrimage to the governor’s mansion in Princeton, NJ, to urge him to close his eyes and think of the party. Headed by businessman Bruce Rastetter, the Iowa delegation played an important role in returning Republican Terry Branstad to the Iowa governor’s office last year, so they may feel they’re on a roll. "There isn’t anyone like Chris Christie on the national scene for Republicans," Rastetter told the AP. "And so we believe that he, or someone like him, running for president is very important at this critical time in our country."
But have these people read up on Christie lately? Their fantasy of a wildly popular and invincible Jersey guy has already gone stale. In fact, Christie’s approval ratings have been sliding downhill ever since he took office almost 16 months ago.
The man would even lose a presidential race in his own state: New Jerseyans would vote for President Obama over Christie 52 to 39, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll (taken last month before the bin Laden killing). Unbeloved at home, Christie’s 47 percent approval/46 percent disapproval rating is down from 52-40 in February. More important, his gender gap is huge–men approve of him 56-38 percent while women disapprove 53-38 percent. And when asked for one word that best describes the governor, by far the term that most often sprung unprompted to Jersey lips was “bully.”
Even in Joisey (full disclosure, I live here myself) being a rude son of a bitch—like telling students to their faces that their teachers don’t care about them—eventually makes people sour on you. Of course it doesn’t help that Christie’s hit the state with killer cuts—slashing teacher, police, and social service jobs—while refusing to restore the expired “millionaire’s tax.” Or that his high-handed interpersonal abrasiveness cost the state $400 million in federal “Race to the Top” education funds. (His numbers have also taken a dive in the decidedly pro-choice state for supporting anti-abortion activists, though that would obviously play well elsewhere.)