FILE - In this March 24, 2015, file photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie calls on an audience member to ask a question during a town hall meeting at the Hanover Township Community Center in Whippany, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

A 2016 poll came out in New Hampshire this week that carried some very bad news for Chris Christie.

The survey, conducted by WMUR-TV, showed the New Jersey governor at 3 percent in the New Hampshire primary, putting him in 11th place in the field -- and two points behind reality show "star"/political huckster Donald Trump. Worse for Christie is that when WMUR last polled the New Hampshire primary back in February, he took 9 percent of the vote.

So, in the space of less than three months, Christie's support dropped by two-thirds in perhaps the one state where he must do well if he wants to be a serious-ish candidate for the nomination. As WMUR's John DiStaso, the dean of Granite State political reporters, writes on the poll:

If a poll with such a tightly packed field can signal concern for any one contender, it would be for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who dropped from 9 percent in February to 3 percent, even after rolling out an entitlement reform plan that received positive reviews for its candor.

Yup. 


We are accordingly dropping Christie to No. 8 in our list of the 10 most likely 2016 GOP nominees. But why aren't we dropping Christie from our rankings altogether? Because what 2012 taught us is that the presidential cycle is composed of a series of smaller boom/bust cycles that propel or hamstring candidates. That means that there's a scenario --an increasingly unlikely, but not implausible scenario -- where Christie gets his moment.

For that reason -- and that reason alone -- Christie hangs on to one of our top 10 slots.

As always, the No. 1 ranked candidate is, duh, the candidate most likely to win the nomination. These things change -- remember those days when Christie was regarded by many as the frontrunner -- so if your preferred candidate didn't make the cut, I would counsel patience.

10. Rick Perry: On paper, the outgoing Texas governor looks like a compelling candidate. But, that "on paper" argument didn't work so well for Perry in the 2012 race. By all accounts he is more on top of things in this race -- and his balky back is in better shape -- but polling would suggest that Perry might not get a second chance to make a first impression. (Previous ranking: 10)

9. Bobby Jindal: The Louisiana governor feels like the "me too" candidate in the field. He's right there -- always -- advocating for conservatives to stand on principle but never really getting any credit for it. Take the religious freedom fight in Indiana. Jindal was everywhere supporting the need for just those sorts of laws to protect Christians from discrimination. But he got roughly zero credit for it.  Jindal keeps trying to break through. And to date, he's failed. (Previous ranking: 9)

8. Chris Christie: I contemplated putting Christie at No. 10 or dropping him from the line entirely given not only how poorly he polls in early states but also because of how many Republicans tell national pollsters they simply can't or won't vote for him. But I not only left Christie on our rankings but put him ahead of two other candidates because of his fundraising capacity and natural ability as a candidate. Christie might never get to the point in the race where those things matter, but he is likely to have enough of both to make his mark if it does. (Previous ranking: 7)

7. John Kasich: The Ohio governor sure seems like he's moving toward the race. He's going to places like New Hampshire and talking about what his party and the country need to do. You don't do that sort of stuff unless you fancy yourself a presidential candidate. And yet, he refuses to set any sort of timeline on when he'll decide even as the field fills up with credible candidates. Kasich has always been a different sort of political cat, and he's proving it -- yet again -- with his extended contemplation of the race. (Previous ranking: 6)


Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks at a GOP Get Out the Vote rally in Independence, Ohio Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

6. Ted Cruz: Cruz made a mistake recently when he left Washington before the final confirmation vote on Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in order to make a fundraiser in Texas.  Why? Because Cruz's image is built on being a sort of un-politician -- the sort who doesn't do things like miss votes to go to fundraisers.  Does anyone in Iowa make their mind up about Cruz based on this missed vote? No way. But the more he looks just like ll the other politicians, the worse his chances of being the nominee become. (Previous ranking: 5)

5. Rand Paul: Paul might have picked the wrong election cycle to put his non-interventionist foreign policy views forward as he runs for president. As I wrote earlier this week, national security and terrorism now rank No. 1 on a list of issues that Republican voters believe are most important for the country to address.  That represents a major change from just a few years ago when national security and terrorism concerns ranked in the middle of the pack among GOP voters and war-weariness was the prevailing sentiment. The increased concern about our role in the world coupled with a new/old hawkishness could make things very difficult for Paul. (Previous ranking: 4)

4. Mike Huckabee: The former Arkansas governor leaps up four spots from the last time we did these rankings for a simple reason: He's actually running. After Huck's flirtation with the 2012 race, I was in I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it mode, but he took the leap earlier this week with a very well-crafted (and well-delivered) speech. Huckabee has considerable potential as a presidential candidate, particularly in a Republican electorate pining for a populist warrior. But -- and this is the eternal question with Huck -- can he raise the money to take advantage of his significant gifts? The jury is out. (Previous ranking: 8)

3. Scott Walker: Walker seems to have gone a bit incognito -- at least at the national level -- since earlier this spring when he made a few amateur mistakes that robbed him of some part of the considerable momentum he was building in the race. But the Wisconsin governor remains well-positioned as a top-tier candidate; he has a conservative record as governor, he can raise the money, and he fits the profile (Midwestern, swing-state governor) that Republicans are likely to be looking for. (Previous ranking: 2)


Scott Walker

2. Marco Rubio: The Florida senator is, without question, the momentum candidate at the moment. He got a major boost from a well-executed campaign rollout last month, and his speaking ability and the figure he cuts -- young, Hispanic, charismatic -- have combined to catapult him into the top tier. Anyone who has watched politics for more than a few days knows that Rubio's current rise will slow and be followed, inevitably, by a dip. But he has soared higher already than many people thought he might, so even some slippage will keep him in the top tier. (Previous ranking: 3)

1. Jeb Bush: No one will come close to raising the sort of money that Jeb will. His Right to Rise super PAC is rumored to have raised $100 million through the end of May -- an eye-popping total even to jaded political watchers like us. That money alone won't win him the nomination, but it will allow him to weather a poor performance (or two). Bush has problems with the base -- on immigration and Common Core -- but the latest NBC-WSJ poll had good news for him: The number of Republicans who said they definitely wouldn't vote for him is declining. (Previous ranking: 1)