It’s too early to talk about 2016 polling, for lots of reasons, but today Christie Watch is going to start with those polls anyway.
The reasons that it’s too early are obvious: few voters are devoting any attention at all to the possible 2016 candidates, many of those candidates have little or no name recognition yet outside their own states, no wave of negative ads has begun to disparage the various people considering whether or not to make a run, and none of the possible candidates—including Hillary Clinton, who begins her campaign cum book tour next week—has outlined anything like a platform.
But the early returns do tell us something. And in particular recent polls seem to be saying that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie isn’t dead yet, despite having had his political obituary written and rewritten a dozen times since Bridgegate erupted late last year. With the nationwide Tea Party either dead or dying—or at least being absorbed into the Republican mainstream—it also would appear that Christie, like it or not, could still emerge as the standard-bearer for the GOP’s Wall Street–backed, US Chamber of Commerce–loving, Karl Rove-inspired establishment.
This week Christie is in Pennsylvania, potentially a key swing state on the margins in 2016, where he’s campaigning for Governor Tom Corbett, who’s facing a stiff re-election challenge. His Pennsylvania visit triggered some statewide 2016 polling there, asking voters to decide between Clinton and various GOP challengers.
According to the Quinnipiac Poll, Christie matched up quite well against Clinton, with Clinton leading 45 to 41 percent. That compares favorably to bigger leads for Clinton over other potential Republican candidates, including Rand Paul (51-37), Mike Huckabee (56-32), Jeb Bush (51-35) and Paul Ryan (50-38). It’s particularly significant that Christie held Clinton to less than 50 percent, while none of the other Republicans did. Of course, perhaps Christie is better known to Pennsylvanians because he is governor of a neighboring state. But the results also indicate that Bridgegate and a tangle of other scandals—including mismanaged recovery aid related to Superstorm Sandy, corruption among Christie appointees at the Port Authority and untoward efforts to pressure Hoboken’s mayor by threatening to withhold Sandy aid—haven’t brought Christie down yet. No doubt, the super-wealthy backers of Christie among hedge fund billionaires and other wealthy donors such as Sheldon Adelson are carefully tracking the results of such polls. In addition, Republican pundits are beginning to come around to Christie again.