Can Christie get back into New Jersey’s good graces?
After a disappointing sixth place finish in the GOP Republican primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has dropped out of the race, but he still has a lot of work ahead of him in his home state.
According to Farleigh Dickinson University political science professor Peter Woolley, getting back into the good graces of Garden State residents will be extremely challenging for Christie.
“He is in a deep hole in public approval and he has a problem with credibility, Bridgegate really undermined people’s trust in his competence and his believability, so to dig himself out he’s going to have to get a big shovel,” he said.
Woolley said even though a lot of people in New Jersey are annoyed with Christie for disappearing for months, that doesn’t mean he still can’t be effective.
“He is a consummate deal-maker, I don’t think his unpopularity is going to inhibit in any way his ability to see and to make deals, to bargain,” he said. “But where he’s going to be hurting is moving public opinion, that is to say, he’s lost not just the approval of the public but he’s lost the sense that what he says is credible.”
Woolley also said he does not expect Republican lawmakers to turn their backs on Christie.
“Even an unpopular New Jersey governor is immensely powerful, so the legislators are really better off in his party sticking together, and if they do that they’ll get more done and more rewards,” he said.
When asked if New Jersey Democrats will have have a leg up on Christie in terms of deal-making and bargaining, Woolley said absolutely not.
“The Democrats, in a way, will actually be weaker because the democrats are rolling into their own election cycle for governor, with a number of people thinking about running for Governor the democratic leadership is likely to be fractured, it’s going to be fractured north and south,” he said. “He might still be persuasive in a town hall, but on a broad range of issues people have been disappointed as a presidential candidate people see him as a very different person, they see him and evaluate him on a whole range of issues.”
The bottom line, he said, is Christie can still be effective as governor, “but to get his approval up to where it once was is a very long and steep climb, you could imagine it but it’s highly unlikely.”
NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney said he would welcome Christie back to the Garden State with open arms, “because he’s the governor of New Jersey, we have a lot of work to do and it won’t get done without him.”
“Everything depends on what the governor wants to accomplish, if he wants to work with us to fix things we’ll absolutely do it," Sweeney said. "We have been able to compromise in the past and we need to get things done, we have a pension problem, we have a TTF problem, we have a higher education cost problem.”