Chris Christie would dearly love to get his mojo back—his carefully crafted image as a swaggering, no-nonsense New Jersey tough guy. Since the eruption of Bridgegate, the Hoboken Sandy aid controversy and the nested scandals around the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and its self-dealing chairman, David Samson, however, Christie has not been his old self.
When he travels, for instance, he stays out of the limelight and avoids the press, even while raising millions of dollars for the Republican Governors Association (RGA) behind the scenes. Since the marathon, nearly two-hour news conference on January 9, held to defend himself in the Bridgegate crisis, Christie has not spoken to the media—a period of more than nine weeks and counting. During his latest foray for the RGA, to Georgia last week, he was almost invisible. Though he was scheduled to have appeared at a fundraiser for Governor Nathan Deal and then speak at a forum organized by the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, his trip garnered zero press, either in Georgia newspapers or in the increasingly skeptical New Jersey media. CNN, based in Atlanta, confirmed Christie’s trip, but had no details of what he said, what he did or what happened. And CNN added, “Christie will go to the American Enterprise Institute’s World Forum in Sea Island.” The forum is a regular AEI event, but there’s not a word about Christie’s appearance on the AEI website. The Republican Governors Association had nothing to say about Christie’s excursion to Georgia either.
Despite Christie’s effort to keep a low profile—or perhaps because of it—he continues to drop in the polls, both in New Jersey, nationally, and in key presidential primary states such as Iowa. In the latter poll, conducted by The Des Moines Register, 47 percent of Republicans disapprove of how Christie has handled the swirl of scandals, and only 34 percent approve, and the numbers were a lot worse for the overall population and among independent voters. Back home, a Fairleigh Dickinson University Public Mind poll showed that from a high of nearly 80 percent approval last November, Christie’s approval rating in New Jersey stands at just 41 percent. And a Rutgers-Eagleton poll found that just 23 percent of New Jerseyans would call Christie “trustworthy.”