Hail, Christie! Can popular governor throw his weight around the national arena?

by Jack Musso
Chris Christie’s popularity surge in recent months has made him a virtual shoe-in for a second term as governor of New Jersey. But the biggest question is: where will he go from there?
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Christie’s popularity is due to his almost universally lauded response to Hurricane Sandy. Christie won even more praise from New Jerseyans in January when he demanded that Republican leaders in the House of Representatives pass an aid bill for Sandy victims, a measure that had stalled in Congress because of the fiscal cliff and the sequester.
As a result, Christie’s approval ratings are the highest for any governor in the nation, currently at 74 percent, including a 56-percent approval among Democrats, according to the Quinnipiac University Polling Center.
“Christie is an effective leader even though I don’t agree with all of his policies. He’s a good public speaker and has a lot of support,” said senior Zachary Ciabatteri.
However, many conservative politicians  have chided Christie for his literal and metaphorical embrace of President Obama during Sandy, just days before the presidential election. And the fact that Christie wasn’t invited to the Conservative Political Action Convention in March shows conservatives still haven’t warmed up to him.
“Any day you have more Sarah Palin and less Chris Christie is a good day for Democrats,” said Bill Clinton’s former campaign manager and political commentator James Carville on the political talk show This Week with George Stephanopoulos. He speaks for the many Democrats annoyed by Christie’s conservative policies, such as his education reform and his opposition to raising state taxes while cutting spending.
“He’s a good politician; very up front with what he wants, very determined, very manageable,” said junior Alex Favreau.
With Christie’s newfound popularity, high-profile Democrats in New Jersey who had previously been labeled as potential candidates for governor, such as Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former New Jersey Gov. Dick Codey, have all declined to challenge Christie. As a result, the likely Democratic nominee is little-known state Sen. Barbara Buono of Metuchen, whom Christie defeated 60-25 percent in the most recent poll, according to Quinnipiac. Christie is also beating Buono in fundraising, having raised more than $2 million compared to Buono’s $380,000, according to NJ.com. It seems very likely that, short of a major scandal or mishap, Christie will win re-election handily.
“New Jersey is a tough state to run in;  you need a big personality and a lot of passion to run the state, and I don’t think anyone has as big a personality or as much passion as Christie,” said Favreau.
Another question remains: how will Christie utilize this popularity in the future, after winning a second term? Many political commentators, from Bill O’Reilly to Chris Matthews, thinks Christie will use his popularity to build his image for a possible run at the presidency in 2016.
“Whether Christie can attract Republican voters will depend on how well he can sell his moderate policies, which made him successful as a governor but could alienate more traditional Republican voters,” said junior Kelsey Ames.
But some of the same insiders also doubt Christie, who is more moderate on issues such as the environment and gun control than other potential conservative candidates such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell or Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
The issue of Christie’s weight will come into play soon as well. America hasn’t elected an obese President since William Taft in 1908, and society back then didn’t demand its elected officials be both physically and morally fit. If Christie runs for president, expect the weight issue to be talked about a lot, especially as it becomes easier to ridicule public figures through social media.
Amid all this speculation, one thing remains certain: Chris Christie will very likely be our governor come next year, and over the next few years his profile will surely grow larger and more controversial.