New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the latest Republican to announce he is running for president. He joins an already overcrowded field of candidates seeking their party's nomination. But Christie stands out because an overwhelming majority of his own state's registered voters disapproves of his performance in office.
His announcement speech, which will take place Tuesday at his former high school, will be given without the aid of a teleprompter. It will reflect his campaign theme, "Telling it like it is," and be targeted to Republican voters in New Hampshire, where he will go next to begin campaigning. He will highlight his middle-class upbringing, his family values, and his willingness to make tough decisions on entitlements and government spending.
But many Republicans have not forgotten Christie's post-Hurricane Sandy walking tour in 2012 with then-candidate President Barack Obama, which came in his closely contested state at the expense of GOP candidate Mitt Romney. Teachers in the state have not forgotten his harsh attacks on educators and college administrators in his effort to reform the education system. Public-sector unions have not forgotten that the governor has run roughshod over their pensions. And commuters have not forgotten that it was Christie's appointees who shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge, aka Bridgegate, as political retribution against those who did not support the governor's reelection.
In his announcement Christie is expected to point to his governance of a blue state as an example of how he can work with both sides of the political aisle. But state Democrats would argue differently. Christie will say he can make the tough decisions, but many of his opponents will criticize his tough tactics.
Christie's brash and in-your-face style will win him supporters among Republican voters seeking a candidate who seemingly has strong leadership skills. He will stand out among the field of announced Republican candidates and will likely do well in the upcoming party debates.
But this self-described pragmatic conservative Republican is thought by many in the party to be too moderate to win the nomination. While he has raised a lot of money as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, more than $100 million, some of his political positions are not in sync with the Republican base, including on immigration and gun control.
Governor Christie was reelected to a second term in 2013 with 60.3 percent of the vote, which was driven largely by his leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Because he is term limited, he will not be able to run for governor again in 2017. But even if he were eligible then, it is unlikely that New Jersey voters, who have soured on his act, would reelect him. So for him, a run for the presidency is his next best option to be elected to public office.
The fact is that Christie has nothing to lose and everything to gain by pursuing the White House. He has said, "I think what the American people want more than anything else right now is someone who's just going to look them in the eye and tell them the truth, even some truths that they don't like." But the challenge for Governor Christie will be whether enough Republicans trust him enough to nominate him as their standard bearer in 2016.
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