Chris Christie: The most popular Republican in the country

November 27, 2012

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) filed for reelection on Monday. But at this point, it might be easy to look past 2013 and focus a little more intently on 2016.

Christie has seen a massive boost in his popularity in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, with 77 percent of New Jerseyans saying they approve of the governor in a new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released Monday. That's up from 56 percent before Sandy. (Respondents from the first poll were re-contacted for the second one.)


Gov. Chris Christie chats with former first lady Nancy Reagan. (AP)

Christie even gets positive marks from 67 percent of Democrats. Just 17 percent of all registered voters in the Garden State say they disapprove of his performance.

The poll echoes a new Quinnipiac poll that pegs Christie's approval at 72 percent and a Rutgers-Eagleton poll that shows his favorable rating at 67 percent.

Put plainly: For politicians, it doesn't get much better than that -- especially for a Republican in a blue state. (And the numbers, for what it's worth, match up with recent internal polling conducted for the state GOP.)

Those numbers should sufficiently scare any Democrats considering running against Christie next year (we're looking at you, Cory Booker), but they should also help Christie's name to rise to the top when it comes to the 2016 presidential race.

Now, we know and can say with near-certainty that that number will not stay at 77 percent. Politicians often get a huge and temporary boost in times of great tragedy (think 9/11 and George W. Bush), but there is also lots of risk in situations like these (think Hurricane Katrina and George W. Bush). And notably, President Obama didn't enjoy near the bounce Christie has gotten, with his approval rising from 48 percent to 53 percent in the state.

The new poll is confirmation that Christie has passed the test with flying colors so far, and it will only raise the national profile of a man who was already seen as being the cream of the 2016 crop.

Christie opted not to run for president in 2012, despite a cattle call of Republicans pressing him to do just that. And given that he has left open the possibility of running in 2016 and really seemed to enjoy the attention last year, it's clear that he'll be a real contender.

There are still some hard feelings in the GOP over his praise of Obama on the eve of the 2012 election. But time heals (most) wounds, and if Republicans have a very popular governor of a blue state -- a guy they loved even before his approval rating reached for the stratosphere -- it's hard to see Republican heavyweights not embracing the guy in 2016.

Especially in the new pragmatic GOP that party leaders are pitching.

Susan Rice to meet with Graham, McCain: United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice will meet with her top Republican critics -- a meeting that could preview her potential confirmation hearing if she's chosen as Obama's next secretary of state.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have been very critical of Rice in recent days and weeks. On Tuesday, she'll meet with those two and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

The meeting was reportedly requested by Rice, though Graham and McCain have suggested in recent days that Rice should meet with them to explain herself.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Rice suggested that the attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration, rather than a terrorist attack. Last week, she defended herself by saying that she was simply relying on the talking points that had been provided to here.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has joined McCain in tempering his criticism of Rice and now says he is open to confirming her if she is nominated.

Fixbits:

Rick Santorum says he's "open" to another presidential bid in 2016. And Newt Gingrich has "no idea" whether he'll run.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) clarifies: "I'm not in favor of tax increases." Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) emerged Monday as a potential primary challenger for Chambliss, who had distanced himself from the Norquist pledge in recent days.

Retiring Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) will head up the government affairs division for North Carolina-based Duke Energy.

Republican Governors Association executive director Phil Cox will stay on for another two years in that job.

The conservative National Review calls for an end to the Iowa Straw Poll.

InTrade, the political betting market, is now closed to Americans.

Businessman Pete Snyder (R) will run for lieutenant governor of Virginia.

Must-reads:

"Jackson Resignation Spurs Crowded Race for the House in Chicagoland" -- Shira Toeplitz, Roll Call

"‘Fiscal cliff’ brings back that campaign-season feeling" -- Rosalind S. Helderman and David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

"Will the fiscal cliff break Grover Norquist’s hold on Republicans?" -- Aaron Blake, Washington Post

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Sean Sullivan | November 26, 2012