The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Chris Christie’s charmless charm offensive

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

Chris Christie has a go-to sales pitch in Iowa: You might not know it yet, but you like me. You really like me.

In many of his 13 visits since 2010, that has been his theme, and it was captured Monday by the Des Moines Register:

I'm not too blunt, I'm not too direct to be in Iowa or any place else in this country. Because what we need now in my opinion in this country more than anything else, is some blunt, direct straight talk to fix problems that that we've been avoiding for too long because we care more about the comfort of people's feelings than about telling the truth and fixing the problems that need to be fixed. I'm not going to shrink away from that ever.

Christie also seemed to liken himself Ronald Reagan, saying that Americans always knew where he stood because they felt like they knew him.

There's one big problem with this approach: No matter how much he insists that he is their kind of Republican, they aren't buying it.

According to the latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll, Christie is a known quantity. Among possible GOP 2016 contenders, only 10 percent aren't sure about how they feel about him. Only Mike Huckabee does better on that score.

But that familiarity has only led to high unfavorable ratings for Christie. Some 54 percent of likely 2016 GOP caucus-goers have an unfavorable view of the New Jersey governor. That's up from 45 percent in October, and only Donald Trump does worse, with a 68 percent unfavorable rating. (The difference is that Trump isn't running for president, nor is he busy trying to convince people that they should really like him.)

Christie does do better in New Hamphire. There, 59 percent give him favorable marks, but his 29 percent unfavorable rating is tied for the highest non-Trump number (with Mike Huckabee). And this is the state that is supposed to be Christie's (a Northeasterner) strength.

Christie was once the GOP's knight in shining armor, potentially riding into the 2012 primary at the last minute to save the party. Since then, his brand has taken a turn for the worse, but the message has largely stayed the same.

These are the pitfalls of relying on your personality. When you're popular, it's great; when you're not, it's grating.