The best number for Chris Christie in the NBC/Marist poll

It's not been a good last seven days for Chris Christie. In fact, it's probably been the worst seven days of his time in elected office. But, there's a number in the new NBC/Marist poll that represents a bit of good news for him.


New Jersey Governor Chris Christie greets a member of the assembly as he arrives for his annual State of the State address in Trenton, New Jersey January 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

 

The number is 49 percent. That's the number of  registered voters who said Christie comes across as a "strong leader" as compared to 26 percent who said he is a "bully." (You can see the whole poll here.)

This question is absolutely central to Christie's political future.  Assuming nothing else comes out through these various investigations that contradicts his initial assertion that he knew nothing about Bridget Kelly's order to close lanes of traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey before last Wednesday morning, the main challenge for Christie -- in a primary and even more so if he winds up as the GOP nominee -- is to walk the right side of the brash/bully line.

He's done that with remarkable success over the past four-plus years in New Jersey as evidenced by his sweeping victory last November and his strong showing in subgroups (women, Hispanics, African Americans) where Republicans have struggled badly in recent years. But, the lingering effect of bridge-gate -- again assuming nothing new comes out that debunks or raises questions about Christie's version of events -- is that it has the potential to put him on the wrong side of the straight talker/bully line.  Voters love straight talkers (or at least those who have that aura surrounding them )-- witness the success of John McCain -- but don't like bullies.

At the moment, it appears that bridge-gate hasn't moved Christie to the wrong side of the brash/bully divide. Now, there's still lots and lots of time for his Democratic enemies and his likely Republican challengers to turn bridge-gate from an isolated incident into a broader indictment of his approach to government. But, at least so far, voters seem to be siding with Christie the bold not Christie the bully.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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