Chris Christie strikes a right-facing profile for 2016
As he gears up for a run in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, Gov. Chris Christie is stressing positions that may appeal to conservatives but could make it more difficult to court moderates in a general national election.
"It's not clear exactly how many of the governor's positions he's going to change, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "[It's] more about what he's going to highlight that he hasn't highlighted in the past. He's going to recast how he presents his positions and I think this is a big PR move on his part."
At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meetings, Christie threw red meat to conservatives by playing up his pro-life stance and adjusting his previous position on Common Core education standards.
"They said it could never be done, now twice, twice, for the first time since Roe vs. Wade, New Jersey has elected a pro-life governor," said Christie. "I ran as a pro-life candidate in 2009 and unapologetically spoke at the rally on the steps of the State House. I vetoed Planned Parenthood funding five times out of the New Jersey budget."
Opposition to Common Core school standards have become a must for conservatives and Christie, originally among the bipartisan group of governors who first promoted the initiative, took a different tack during the question and answer session at at CPAC, as reported by NJ Spotlight.
"My concern now as we've begun to try to do implementation is not only the heavy foot of the federal government that's coming in, but it's not doing what we need to have done in New Jersey. We need to have local control," Christie said.
There are roughly 700,000 more registered Democratic voters in New Jersey than Republican voters and the case for Christie as a GOP presidential candidate rests heavily on having been elected and re-elected governor of a blue state.
Montclair State University Political Science Professor Brigid Harrison said Christie's political standing in New Jersey could be hurt if he appears too conservative. His poll numbers could continue to plummet, depriving him of state policy achievements he could showcase in a presidential run.
"I think that Democrats who control the Legislature feel empowered to challenge this unpopular governor," Harrison said. "And I think they won't deliver the policy successes - including the budget - that he is demanding."
In a Fairleigh Dickinson University-PublicMind poll released Tuesday, just 35 percent of registered voters in New Jersey said they approved of the job Christie is doing while 51 percent disapproved. That is the lowest approval and the highest disapproval for the governor since he took office in 2009.
"If the governor seems too conservative there's a big question about how does this play in New Jersey? The answer to that is I don't think he really cares," Murray said. "He's not looking for our approval because he doesn't need it. He needs the approval of voters out in Iowa and New Hampshire right now."